Solar plane’s journey gets stuck in red tape

Solar plane's journey gets stuck in red tapeAHMEDABAD: The world’s only ‘zero-fuel’ aeroplane ‘Solar Impulse-2’ was caught in red-tape after its departure was delayed from the city for want of Customs and Immigration clearance, even as its pilot held the ‘administration’ responsible for the delay.

Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard, who had flown the airplane from Muscat to Ahmedabad, did not get clearance from the Immigration department as well.

His co-pilot Andre Borschberg today flew the world’s first solar-powered aircraft from here to Varanasi.

“The delay is…administration, its papers, its stamps. I am not here to accuse anybody. I just say since five days we are trying to get over stamps (clearance) and everyday, it (concerned authority) says it’s tomorrow, and every tomorrow it’s again tomorrow and since five days we are desperate to get over stamps and now we still have stamps missing,” said Piccard.

A senior airport official said that the Customs and Immigration departments failed to give clearance to the Solar-Impulse-2 (SI-2) team.

“There was an issue of Customs and Immigration. There is a rule of giving transport clearance to a foreign aircraft to sanction its take off. However, in this case, Customs failed to give the transport clearance,” said the official.

“They (Customs) were well aware what the Solar Impulse-2 is and also knew that it was supposed to take off from the city on March 13, its first scheduled departure. However, since five days they are delaying their flight on the issues of Customs and immigration clearance,” he added.

However, a senior Customs official said the SI-2 is a foreign aircraft, which needs a clearance from the department.

“As they are a foreign aircraft team, they need to have Customs clearance, but they could not obtain it,” he said.

“He (Bertrand Piccard) did not get clearance from the immigration department and his passport was not stamped and because of this their journey was delayed,” the Customs official said.

The SI-2 team also tweeted about the bureaucratic red-tapism and made an appeal to help them in getting passport clearance.

“Bertrand Piccard blocked in Ahmedabad to get a stamp on his passport. Does anyone can help?” SI-2’s official twitter account said.

“In Ahmedabad, the solar team is still waiting for Bertrand Piccard Si2passport! Time is running out,” they said in another tweet.

The globe-trotting SI-2 began its journey on March 9 from Abu Dhabi. It landed at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport here on March 10, after a nearly 15-hour flight from Muscat.

Borschberg, the project’s co-founder, and co-pilot and project president Piccard spent over a week in the city during the plane’s stopover here.

From Varanasi, the SI-2 is scheduled to fly to Mandalay in Myanmar, Chongqing and Nanjing in China and thereafter to the US.-PTI

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