Solar Impulse: Oldest living city readies for its date with future tech:

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Solar Impulse: Oldest living city readies for its date with future tech:

On Wednesday, Varanasi, the World’s oldest living city, will keep its date with the technology of the future. As the cymbals clash and chants of the Ganga aarti rent the evening air, Solar Impulse 2, the first round-the-world solar flight, will offer an aerial obeisance to the holy river before landing in front of a cheering audience at Babatpur international airport, nearly 30 kilometres away.

Grand preparations lie in wait for the Si2’s arrival in Varanasi. As pioneering explorer and founder of the Si2 Andre Borschberg prepares for the third leg of the first round-the-solar flight from Ahmedabad to Varanasi, his flying companion Bertrand Piccard will wait, with an advance team of 10, for Si2 to reach the holy city.

Si2 will take off from Ahmedabad at 5.30 am and will take nearly 15 hours to reach Varanasi. Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport Babatpur, director, SK Malik, said, “Si2 is scheduled to land here at 20.30 hours. After landing and getting off the active runway, the aircraft will take about one and a half hours to park. Unlike Ahmedabad, where a hanger was especially created for Si2, in Varanasi, it will remain in the open.”

Si2 will also receive a grand reception in the terminal building of the Babatpur airport, where UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, senior government functionaries, and India hosts, Aditya Birla group, will line up to welcome the only airplane of perpetual endurance, able to fly day and night on solar power, without a drop of fuel.

After a brief meet-and-greet session with its Benarasi fans, the Si2 team will also begin preparations for the last leg of its stay in India, before leaving Indian waters to fly to Mandalay in Myanmar on Thursday. Malik told TOI the Si2 will take off for its last flight in India at 4.30 am on Thursday, after a two hour preparation, and an official send off.

The unique challenge — to attempt the first round-the-world Solar Flight in 2015 — Piccard and Borschberg’s attempt to demonstrate how pioneering spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world, has generated considerable excitement in Varanasi. Noted astrologer and scholar, Kameshwar Upadhyay, said, “References to advanced science and technology based on natural energy can be found in ancient Indian texts. The arrival of the combustible, fuel-less aircraft is very welcome.”

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