Thu, Mar 19, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Solar fight pilot frustrated over Indian red tape delay

AFP, AHMEDABAD, India

Swiss pilots Andre Borschberg,left, and Bertrand Piccard for Solar Impulse 2, the world’s only solar-powered aircraft, pose for a photograph before the plane takes off from the airport in the Indian city of Ahmedabad yesterday.

Photo: AFP

A pilot who is trying to make history by flying a solar-powered plane around the world yesterday launched an angry attack on Indian bureaucracy after a lengthy hold-up in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.

Bertrand Piccard, the Swiss pilot of Solar Impulse 2, said the aircraft’s take-off from Ahmedabad city in the western state of Gujarat was delayed by five days because of tedious paperwork.

The plane landed in Ahmedabad on Tuesday last week from the Omani capital, Muscat, after completing an initial sea crossing in its epic bid to become the first plane to fly around the world solely powered by the sun.

“The delay is [because of] of administration, papers, stamps,” Piccard told reporters before the plane finally took off from Ahmedabad airport yesterday morning.

“I’m not here to accuse anybody. I just say that since the last five days we are trying to get all the stamps and every day [they] say tomorrow,” a frustrated Piccard said.

“Since five days we are desperate to get all the stamps and we still have stamps missing,” he said.

The single seater had been due to leave on Sunday for a short flight to the Hindu holy city of Varanasi before heading onto Myanmar.

However, the plane could only leave yesterday following a series of delays, including a last-minute hitch at the time of scheduled take-off that had originally been blamed on poor weather.

Piccard’s comments risk embarrassing Modi, who has vowed to cut bureaucratic red tape in promised reforms to revive India’s economy after storming to power at general elections in May last year.

Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat before becoming prime minister, wants to attract more foreign companies who have long complained of encountering bureaucratic nightmares in India. Modi supporters have often touted Gujarat’s business-friendly policies as a model for success which should replicated nationally.

Kiran Mazumadar Shaw, head of Indian biotechnology company Biocon, yesterday took a swipe at Modi’s government following the pilot’s tirade.

“Hope [the prime minister] heard the solar plane’s pilot commenting on bureaucratic delays n cumbersome paperwork... Red tape and petty officialdom are stalling progress,” she wrote on Twitter.

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