A PBS Nova show, meant to promote solar energy through solar flight, did nothing more than reinforce the fact that computer-modeled climate change is hooey.
If you asked me, I would say that the show devoted two hours documenting how highly educated European true believers invested tens of thousands of hours and possibly millions of gallons of fossil fuel into inventing and flying a solar-powered plane that (1) travels at 45 miles an hour, (2) can do night flights only under optimal — and unpredictable — circumstances, and (3) is so fragile rain can break every part of it.
At the end of the day, I would have this as my conclusion about the show: It’s as if these European intellectual elites decided to time travel to Kitty Hawk in 1903, turn to the Wright Brothers, and say “Hold my beer!”
Nova has a less cynical take:
On March 9, 2015, Solar Impulse II took off from Abu Dhabi on one of the greatest aviation adventures of our time: the first solar-powered flight around the world. Together with a team of brilliant engineers, two visionary pilots—Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg—designed and built Solar Impulse from scratch, even though top airplane manufacturers told them it would be “impossible to control.” To pull it off, they had to re-invent everything, from innovative solar cells and batteries to massive carbon-fiber wings. Despite all their efforts, the performance of the plane was balanced on a knife-edge, demanding near-perfect weather conditions and hour after hour of vigilant, skillful piloting. The longest nonstop leg, from Japan to Hawaii, lasted five days and set a new world solo flight record. NOVA captures an insider’s view of the Solar Impulse pilots and ground team as they experience moments of hair-raising crisis, remarkable endurance, and ingenious problem-solving.
The only part of the show I really enjoyed was the fact that it had a bald “Captain” Piccard boldly going where no man has gone before. Other than that, it dragged. We saw how the plane couldn’t do this and it couldn’t do that, and it couldn’t fly here and it couldn’t land there — all at 45 miles per hour. And we saw how, everywhere the plane wended its non-polluting ways, dozens of team members trailed in its wake, hauling with them vast amounts of equipment — all the old-fashioned way, relying on fossil fuels.
I finally reached maximum boredom when the plane was parked in China, preparing to make a trans-Pacific flight to Hawaii — something that would take five days of non-stop flying. This meant, of course, that the plane had to store enough solar power during the day to create energy to fly at night, something it could only do right on the cusp of the summer solstice. Five minutes less of daylight, and it was questionable whether the plane would be able to last the night. [Read more…]