Bertrand Piccard

Bertrand Piccard FRSGS (born 1 March 1958) is a Swiss psychiatrist and balloonist. Along with Brian Jones, he was the first to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the globe, in a balloon named Breitling Orbiter 3. He was the initiator, chairman, and co-pilot, with André Borschberg, of Solar Impulse, the first successful round-the-world solar-powered flight.

Bertrand Piccard
Piccard in 2015
Born (1958-03-01) 1 March 1958
Alma materUniversity of Lausanne
OccupationPsychiatrist and aviator
OrganizationSolar Impulse
Known forBallooning, solar flight
RelativesAuguste Piccard (grandfather)

Piccard was born in Lausanne, Switzerland. His grandfather Auguste Piccard was a balloonist, and his father Jacques Piccard was an undersea explorer.


Early life

As a child, Piccard was taken to the launch of several space flights from Cape Canaveral. He developed early interests in flight and human behaviour in extreme situations. He received a degree from the University of Lausanne in psychiatry. He has since become a lecturer and supervisor at the Swiss Medical Society for Hypnosis (SMSH).[1]

Piccard obtained licenses to fly balloons, airplanes, gliders, and motorized gliders. In Europe, he was one of the pioneers of hang gliding and microlight flying during the 1970s. He became the European hang-glider aerobatics champion in 1985.[1]

Breitling Orbiter

On 1 March 1999, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones launched in the balloon Breitling Orbiter 3, a bright red, carbon-composite, egg-shaped craft measuring sixteen feet long and seven feet in diameter, from Château d'Oex in Switzerland on the first successful non-stop balloon circumnavigation of the globe—- the first circumnavigation not requiring any fuel for forward motion.[2] Piccard and Jones, in cooperation with a team of meteorologists on the ground, maneuvered into a series of jet streams that carried them 25,361 miles to land in Egypt after a 45,755 km (28,431 mi) flight lasting 19 days, 21 hours, and 47 minutes.[2] In recognition of this accomplishment, he received awards including the Harmon Trophy, the FAI Gold Air Medal and the Charles Green Salver.

Solar Impulse

During November 2003, Piccard announced a project, in cooperation with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), for a solar-powered, long-range aircraft named Solar Impulse. Piccard began construction during 2007, and conducted brief test flights during 2008 with André Borschberg. By 2009, he had assembled a multi-disciplinary team of fifty specialists from six countries, assisted by approximately one hundred outside advisers.[3]

The project is financed by a number of private companies and individuals in Europe. The first company to fund the project officially was Semper, after Eric Freymond was convinced of the future success of the media-savvy Bertrand Piccard.[4] Owing to international funding for the project, the Solar Impulse is a European craft, not a Swiss one, despite scientific and medical assistance from the EPFL and Hirslanden Clinique Cecil.

During 2010, Solar Impulse 1 (Si1) made its first nighttime flight. During 2011, it landed at Bourget Field in Paris. During 2012, it made its first intercontinental flight from Morocco to Switzerland. Originally conceived as a one-seater, the design of Solar Impulse was altered to allow two. The first intercontinental flight was made by Piccard and Borschberg together. During 2013, he and Borschberg traversed the United States from Mountain View, California to JFK Airport in New York City. There were several stops along the way, including Washington, D.C.

During 2015, the objective was to accomplish the first round-the-world solar flight in history.[5] The voyage consisted of multiple flights started on 9 March and scheduled to conclude about five months later. In order to switch pilots, stopovers were scheduled at locations in India, Myanmar, China, United States, and southern Europe or northern Africa. Bertrand Piccard piloted the ninth segment of the round-the-world trip and landed the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) in Moffett Field in California on 24 April 2016 after three days of flying from Kalaeloa Airport, Hawaii.

André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard completed their circumnavigation of the globe with the solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse on 26 July 2016.[6] On the same day, they announced the creation of the International Committee of Clean Technologies.[6]

For his role in delivering and piloting Solar Impulse, Bertrand was awarded the prestigious Mungo Park Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 2018. This was awarded jointly with André Borschberg.

Personal information

Bertrand Piccard is married, and is the father of three children.


Piccard is known for his declarations, using expressions such as:

  • "The Invisible Hand" (la Main Invisible):
  • "I went in search of new ideas blowing in the wind, to try and live better on Earth in my roles as doctor and human being."
  • "Consciousness is perceiving one's soul."
  • "Welcome to those who believe in the power of dreams and who would like to join me in my exploration of life."
  • "People will tell you it's impossible, and it's exactly why we try to do it."[7]

The Piccard family

Awards and honours


  • Changer d'Altitude (Éditions Stock, Paris) 2014 ISBN 978-2-234-07725-6
  • The Greatest Adventure (Headline, London) 1999 ISBN 0-7472-7128-3 or Around the world in 20 Days (same content published by Wiley, New York) 1999 ISBN 0-471-37820-8 — pictured
  • Quand le vent souffle dans le sens de ton chemin (out of print) 1993 ISBN 2883930104
  • Une trace dans le ciel (Robert Laffont, Paris) 1999 ISBN 2-8289-0881-X
  • André Borschberg; Bertrand Piccard (2017). Objectif Soleil (in French). Stock. ISBN 978-2-234-08083-6..

See also

Notes and references

  1. "Bertrand Piccard Biography" (PDF). Solar Impulse. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 January 2013.
  2. Linda Shiner (17 September 2009). "First Around the World". Air&Space Magazine.
  3. "Major Steps". Solar Impulse. 31 December 2011. Archived from the original on 15 September 2012.
  4. "Semper Gestion, First partner of Solar Impulse project". Nerditorial. 2 September 2013.
  5. First Round-The-World Solar Flight ( Archived 20 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  6. (in French) Olivier Dessibourg, "Vers un comité mondial pour les énergies « vertes »", Le temps, Wednesday 27 July 2016, page 13. Box part of the large article of Fabien Goubet entitled "Un tour du monde, zéro carburant : Solar Impulse réécrit l'histoire de l'aviation", Le temps, Wednesday 27 July 2016, pages 12-13
  7. Piccard, Bertrand. "My Solar-Powered Adventure". TED. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
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