“THE IMPOSSIBLE FLIGHT”

A new episode of “NOVA” brings us the story of two visionary pilots on a daring adventure to build and fly the first solar-powered airplane around the world. Paula Apsell, senior executive producer of “NOVA,” is here to bring us inside the film and behind scenes of the team of engineers, meteorologists and flight controllers as they worked toward the first zero-fuel airplane.

Aired January 29, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> NOVA, THE IMPOSSIBLE FLIGHT IS A FILM THAT LIVES AT THE INTERSECTION OF ADVENTURE AND CLEAN ENERGY.

THE PROGRAM FOLLOWS BRAVE PILOTS AND ENGINEERS WHO RISKED THEIR LIVES TO FLY THE FIRST SOLAR-POWERED AIRPLANE ACROSS THE GLOBE WITHOUT A DROP OF FUEL.

HERE'S A SNEAK PEEK.

A FEAT NEVER BEFORE ATTEMPTED.

FLY AROUND THE WORLD WITH NO FUEL.

POWERED ONLY BY THE LIGHT OF THE SUN.

IT'S COMPLETELY CRAZY.

WE'RE ADVENTURERS.

ACCCAN THE BATTERIES LAST FI NIGHTS OVER THE PACIFIC OCEAN?

A DARING TEST OF TECHNOLOGY.

THE IMPOSSIBLE FLIGHT.

ON NOVA.

RENEWABLE ENERGY IS AN IMPORTANT ANSWER TO THE DIFFICULT QUESTION OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

AND HERE TO TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS FILM IS ITS SENIOR EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, PAULA A ABSELL.

TELL ME WHAT DREW YOU TO THE STORY.

WELL, WHEN THE PRODUCERS FROM FAR WEST PRODUCTIONS FIRST PRESENTED THIS IDEA, IT JUST SEEMED LIKE, AS YOU ACTUALLY SAID, A FABULOUS INTERSECTION BETWEEN SOMETHING VERY, VERY IMPORTANT, RENEWABLE ENERGY, AND ADVENTURE AND EXPLORATION, AND THAT'S REALLY THE SWEET SPOT FOR NOVA.

THAT'S WHAT OUR VIEWERS LOVE TO SEE.

THEY LOVE TO SEE SOMETHING THAT'S TECHNICALLY VERY DIFFICULT, A PROBLEM THAT IS SOLVED, MATCHED WITH AN ADVENTURE THAT HAS AN IMPORTANT PURPOSE.

AND SO IT JUST WAS AN IRRESISTIBLE LURE.

ALTHOUGH I HAVE TO SAY WE WERE AFRAID OF TWO THINGS.

MM-HM.

ONE, WE WERE AFRAID, WE WERE AFRAID THAT THE TRIP AROUND THE WORLD WOULD GO OFF WITHOUT A HITCH.

AND THAT WOULD SEEM VERY BORING.

AND WE WERE ALSO AFRAID, BECAUSE GOING 26,000 MILES AROUND THE GLOBE IN A SOLAR-POWERED PLANE WITHOUT A DROP OF FUEL IS SO YES, IMPROBABLE AND SO DANGEROUS THAT WE WERE ALSO AFRAID THAT SOMETHING TERRIBLE WOULD HAPPEN.

I WAS GOING TO SAY, THIS IS CERTAINLY A FILM THAT HAS ITS TENSE MOMENTS OF DRAMA.

ONE OF THE ONES THAT STANDS OUT THE MOST OF COURSE IS TFIVE-DAY FLIGHT FROM JAPAN TO HAWAII.

TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHY THAT TOOK FIVE DAYS AND WHAT MADE IT SO DANGEROUS.

IT TOOK FIVE DAYS BECAUSE OF PACIFIC OCEAN IS SIMPLY THE LARGEST OCEAN ON EARTH.

IT'S REALLY BIG.

AND IT TAKES THAT MUCH TIME TO CROSS IT IN A PLANE THAT GOES ABOUT 45 MILES AN HOUR, WHICH IS WHAT 'SOLAR IMPULSE' DID.

AND SO THERE WERE A TREMENDOUS NUMBER OF OBSTACLES, AND IT WAS A VERY DICEY DECISION WHETHER TO TAKE OFF FROM NAGOYA, JAPAN AT ALL.

BECAUSE THERE WERE ALL KINDS OF RESTRICTIONS THAT THE JAPANESE IMPOSED ON THE FLIGHT THAT DIDN'T GEOFFIVE THEM AN OPTIMAL PATH.

THE MONSOON SEASON WAS BEGINNING IN JAPAN.

AND RIGHT AS THEY STARTED THEY WERE CONFRONTED WITH TWO PROBLEMS.

I ALSO HAVE TO SAY THEY HAD A TEAM OF METEOROLOGISTS WHO WERE FANTASTIC, BUT THE FURTHER YOU GO, THE NUMBER OF DAYS FROM THE TAKEOFF POINT, THE LOWER YOUR CONFIDENCE IN YOUR WEATHER REPORT GOES.

SO, IF YOU HAVE TO FLY FOR FIVE DAYS, THE CONFIDENCE JUST SINKS FOR THOSE LAST TWO DAYS.

NOW, SO THEY TOOK OFF FROM NAGUY YEAH, AND THE FIRST THING THEY HAD WAS THEIR AUTO PILOT SURVEY LANCE SYSTEM CALLED THE M.A.S.

STARTS TO BEEP CONSTANTLY, AND IT WAS JUST KIND OF WORKING OVERTIME FOR SOME REASON.

AND THAT MADE THE ELECTRONIC SYSTEM IN THE PLANE QUESTIONABLE, WHICH OF COURSE WORRIED FLIGHT CONTROL.

CERTAINLY.

AND IT ALSO KEPT WAKING ANDRE UP, SO HE, YOU KNOW, THEY SLEEP IN CAT NAPS OF 20 MINUTES EACH.

FOR FIVE DAYS AND NIGHTS, IT'S NOT POSSIBLE FOR A HUMAN BEING TO STAY UP THAT LONG.

SO THEY'RE VERY WORRIED ABOUT PILOT EXHAUSTION AS WELL AS THE ELECTRONICS.

BUT THE PLANE DID LAND, AND THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART, NOT, YOU KNOW, NOT TO GIVE AWAY A SPOILER ALERT, BUT THE PLANE DID LAND.

THROUGH ALL OF THESE THINGS, ANDRE WAS JUST VERY CONFIDENT.

YOU KNOW, HE WAS A FIGHTER PILOT IN THE SWISSAIR FORCE.

AND HE BELIEVED THAT THE PLANE FELT GOOD.

AND SO THE INTUITION OF THE PILOT CARRIED THE DAY.

REALLY FLIGHT CONTROL, MISSION CONTROL IN MONACO WANTED HIM TO GO BACK TO NAGOYA, JAPAN.

THIS TEAM HAS THE PILOTS' LIVES IN THEIR HANDS.

THEY ARE CONCERNED ABOUT IT CONSTANTLY.

BUT ANDRE OVERRULED THEM AND SAID WE HAVE TO GO ON.

HE JUST FELT THE PLANE WAS FLYING SO WELL.

AND AS YOU SAID, THE PLANE DID LAND WITHOUT ANY TERRIBLE ACCIDENTS HAPPENING IN HAWAII.

THIS IS AN AMAZING FILM TO WATCH, JUST TO SEE WHAT THE POSSIBILITIES ARE, AND IT'S ALSO A BEAUTIFUL FILM TO WATCH VISUALLY.

SO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BRINGING THIS TO US AND TO NOVA.

YOU ARE VERY WELCOME, AND I HOPE THAT EVERYBODY WATCH IT IS ON JANUARY 31st ON NOVA.

CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS, AND THANKS VERY MUCH FOR YOUR QUESTIONS.

YOU ALMOST TOOK THE WORDS OT OUT OF MY MOUTH.

IS PREMIERES JANUARY 31st AT 9:00 P.M.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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