Bertrand Piccard intends to fly around the world without using a drop of fuel. Sound crazy? The first thing to know about Piccard is that “impossible” is not a word in his vocabulary.
With the support of Moët Hennessy, Bertrand Piccard’s Solar Impulse 2 airplane is making its way around the globe on a record-breaking journey of discovery. Powered entirely by solar cells (and Piccard’s determination) the flight will set the stage for a new era of aviation and exploration, and a greener future for humankind. For anyone else, an undertaking of this magnitude might be surprising, but for Hennessy, a brand whose motto is, appropriately, “Never Stop, Never Settle,” pushing boundaries runs in the family, which is why they chose to work with the Piccard family on their latest campaign.
From an early age, Bertrand Piccard was interested in discovery, a trait inherited from his grandfather, Auguste Piccard and his father, Jacques Piccard. Auguste rose to fame in the early 1900s for his work in chemistry and physics, discovering Uranium 235 and conducting groundbreaking research on cosmic radiation. A friend of Marie Curie and a colleague of Albert Einstein, Auguste’s curiosity and ingenuity drove him to explore the stratosphere, inventing the tools he needed as he went.
In 1931 the elder Piccard floated over 15 kilometres into the air above Switzerland in a pressurized cabin of his own design attached to a stratospheric balloon, shattering the records of the day and creating the framework for high-altitude flight. Relentlessly curious, Auguste would go on to set records for ocean exploration, too, inventing the bathyscaph — the predecessor to modern submarines — and using it to descend to a depth of over 3,000 metres. Along for the ride was Jacques Piccard, who left a career as a professor of economics to work alongside his father. Carrying on Auguste’s research and exploration, Jacques would be the first person to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench — the ocean’s farthest depth — in 1960. Jacques Piccard went on to devote his life to both exploring the oceans and preserving them.
Considering the exploits of his father and grandfather before him, it’s little surprise that Bertrand Piccard would grow up to make a name for himself as a breaker of records, just as Hennessy’s pursuit for perfection has been passed down through the generations, since Richard Hennessy founded the House of Hennessy in 1765. Piccard’s obsession began in childhood as he watched from Cape Canaveral as the Apollo 11 rocket streaked across the sky. A pioneering aviator long before Solar Impulse, Piccard was an early expert in hang-gliding, winning the European aerobatics hang-gliding championships at 16 years old.
Then, in 1999, Piccard successfully became the first to circumnavigate the globe by hot air balloon. While the 20-day journey was an unprecedented success (many had tried and failed before him, often with fatal consequences) one thing nagged Piccard’s mind: the tons of liquid propane used to fuel the burner that propelled their flight. Much like his partners at Hennessy, Piccard is a conscientious environmentalist for whom sustainability is paramount. Piccard promised himself that his next circumnavigation would be done using no fuel at all, and so the idea for Solar Impulse was born.
Solar Impulse would be a completely new kind of aircraft, one that would prove that sustained flight could be achieved without the use of fossil fuels. By 2010 Solar Impulse had completed a 26-hour continuous flight, successfully remaining aloft through a full solar cycle. In 2012 Piccard flew from Switzerland to Morocco, completing the first-ever solar powered intercontinental flight. By 2015 Solar Impulse 2 was ready to take to the sky and begin humankind’s first solar-powered circumnavigation of the globe. In March of that year the plane cleared the runway in Abu Dhabi and silently glided across the wide Arabian sky.
Just as Hennessy’s innovations and passion inspire creativity and adventure, this historic journey lays the groundwork for a cleaner, greener future of aviation. It provides an example for others to follow, declaring to anyone watching that the only limits of human achievement are in the mind and truly anything is possible. No doubt Auguste Piccard would have been proud.