Together with 45 journalists of the international press (all Belgian television channels, Reuters, AFP, Japanese, German, Spanish television crews, etc.), I had been invited to attend the landing of the world's first solar aeroplane in Brussels after its first trip outside of Switzerland.
Two buses took us to a place on the apron next to the tanking trucks parking, at the intersection of runways 02 and 25R, an ideal view for landing on Rwy 02.
While waiting, several planes passed by. It was a busy period at Brussels Airport. Among them, OO-DJT, an Avro RJ85 to Oslo where Bart (Luchtzak) was the purser and his wife Emmy the stewardess. It must have been a nice flight...
After a long wait, the runway for landing was suddenly changed from 02 to 25R. Everybody ran to the buses, which started promptly to bring us close to hangar 117. We had not yet arrived there that the runway was changed again to 02. AT above the allowed speed limit, the buses went back to the initial spot.
Immediately thereafter, the Solar Impulse appeared to the North, still pretty high in the sky, accompanied by a helicopter.
The sun was disappearing over the horizon, and suddenly the pilot switched on all the lights on the wing. Superb view. Thanks to the LED technology this consumes only 100 watt.
The plane passed slowly over the airport, then made a large circle to find the alignment of runway 02.
The traffic at the airport was brought to a standstill 5 minutes before the landing, until 3 minutes after the landing. Passengers of an Brussels Airlines Avro RJ100 standing on the taxiway next to 02 were very privileged to observe the landing from very close.
When the Solar Impulse started landing, darkness had fallen over the airport. My amateur equipment didn't allow me to take decent pictures, and I therefore borrow tow photographs from Reuters.
At 21:39, the Solar Impulse had landed on Runway 02 of Brussels Airport, marking the end of its first international flight.
The journalists packed up, took the buses and went to hangar 117. Several guests were waiting there, invited by the airport authorities. Among them, 40 Facebook fans and 15 Twitter fans of Brussels Airport. A cocktail had been served, and a new long wait started: the plane had to be pushed by persons on foot from Rwy 02 to the hangar.
In the meantime, the journalists could interview Bertrand Piccard, who was at the origin of the whole project. A little bit later, the pilot André Borschberg arrived in a car of the Airport Security and he was immediately surrounded by throngs of journalists. His interview by Pascale Bollekens was broadcast live in the 22:30 news of RTBF.
At 23:00 the Solar Impulse finally arrived in front of Hangar 117. It was pushed from the side into the hangar.
A special guest was present: Prince Philip of Belgium, seen here with Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg.
The speeches could start. CEO Arnaud Feist of Brussels Airport said it was a great honour for Brussels Airport to be the first international destination of the Solar Impulse. He mentioned the patronage of the Brussels based European Commission and the sponsorship of a large Belgian chemical company.
André Borschberg spent 13 hours in the plane on the 13th of May. It was his lucky number.
Bertrand Piccard was proud of his project, a concentrate of modern technology, and pleaded for a larger use of renewable energy.
He thanked his whole team, part of which was in Brussels.
After the speeches, Prince Philip was shown the cockpit and given explanations.
It was well past midnight when the party was over.
Copyright: text and pictures: André Orban
With sincere thanks to Reuters for the two pictures of the landing and to Jan Van der Cruysse for the three first pictures of the press
ex Sabena #26567