17 Sep 2016

Who's going where and what do pilots think?

The pilot briefing on Saturday 17 September 2016, 30-hours ahead of the launch time, had everyone talking about the weather. We asked some of the pilots what they thought of the forecast and what their strategy might be.

Pascal Joubert (FRA-02)
“It’s a very difficult forecast. The Mistral is a problem. You will reach 80km/h easily in the Rhone Valley, and landing in that is not an option. But we know about the Mistral, we are French. So you must decide to land by Lyon, or you will have to go out over the Mediterranean Sea. Hervé wants to do that, but I am not so sure. We will have to discuss!”

Ernst Tschuppert (SUI-03)
“The start looks ok, but from Monday there will be a critical decision to make whether or not to go over the Mediterranean Sea. It is a risk to go out over the sea. I think Grenoble will be a possible landing area, before the Mistral and the sea. Going out over the Mediterranean like that, heading to Sicily and on towards Greece, it’s a long, diagonal crossing and it’s too risky. Some will do it, but it’s not for us."

Peter Cuneo (USA-01)
“I think it’s a fairly typical European weather forecast and conditions. It’s very different to what we are used to in the USA. The interesting thing about flying in Europe is there are so many microclimates all around the Alps. If you stay in the air three days you’ll see three different weather patterns. We don’t get that in the States.

“I think we will be landing in Romania or Bulgaria. I think there is a route, slower and lower, around the north of the Alps, instead of south through France and Lyon. Once over the Mediterranean and down towards Italy I think you’ll see big storms over the water, where the moisture of the sea meets the land. Crete is a very ambitious target. The thing is it’s a long island that runs parallel to our route, not across. So it’s easy to miss.”

John Rose (GBR-02)
“That’s what you call a mixed forecast. It could end in fog in the Alps, or thunderstorms in Italy, or shredding your knickers in the Mistral in the Rhone Valley. Very promising. Very British weather actually!”

Angel Aguirre (ESP-01)
“I would prefer to have flown north, toward the Scandinavian countries, as I have never flown there. But south is good too. The conditions will be very challenging, but it is the combination of two of my great passions: the sea and the high mountains. We will have to cross part of the Alps, which will be beautiful and difficult, and then out to the Mediterranean. It is a very technical flight.

“The decision of whether to fly over the Mediterranean is clear for us. If everything is clear it’s straight out over the Med. The route south, west of Italy and round the southern tip is achievable. Last year we landed in Sardinia after 20 hours over the sea, but we landed thinking we could have done more. And then three balloons flew overhead and went to Sicily. We can go further this time.”

Benoit Pellard (FRA-03)
“I think we should have taken off yesterday, I don’t know why we didn’t go then. But this weather forecast is difficult. The Mistral, well we know about the Mistral, we live there, but that can be dangerous. Going over the sea in these conditions, well I don’t think so. We will have to discuss it with each other and with our team. We have two meteorologists working for us, they inform all three of the French teams, and we will see.

"I hope the weather will change, but at the moment I see a route where we can go further west, down towards Spain. That will be good as it is new for us. Flying south to Barcelona sounds much better than flying to Italy and into thunderstorms.”