Bertrand Piccard is a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. In March 1999, he made the first non-stop, round-the-world balloon flight, and from there, he says, flying around the world day and night without fuel seemed an obvious next step.

Bertrand Piccard

Bertrand Piccard


Dr Piccard first addressed the FERMA Forum in Geneva in 2005 when his revolutionary aircraft Solar Impulse was still in development. When he returns to the stage for the 2013 FERMA Forum in Maastricht, almost certainly it will be with a successful, entirely solar powered flight all across the United States behind him.

To give his formal titles, Dr Piccard is the Initiator, Chairman and Pilot of Solar Impulse, which can travel day and night with nothing more than solar power. It’s a very light aircraft with a 72m wingspan.

His appearance as a keynote speaker at the Forum is possible thanks to Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, which is the project’s sole insurer. Dr Piccard, who comes from an adventurous family, said: “When my grandfather completed the first flight into the stratosphere in 1931, nobody wanted to insure him. Today, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions has proven its pioneering spirit by insuring a revolutionary experimental prototype.”

From a risk management point of view, explains Michel Rohr, Director, Client Executive Aviation & Corporate Clients for Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, underwriting a unique aircraft had been the same as with almost any other risk.
“The first question is: Is it insurable? If yes, then follows: Do we want to insure it? If yes, then we ask ourselves: Can we assess and price the risk? If yes, the next topic is: Do we have access to key decision makers? If yes, then it comes down to how much capacity we want to deploy.

“In regards to the underwriting process – we had unique access to any and all risk information and to key decision makers (who, in this case, also happen to fly the plane), all of which helped us to obtain a complete picture before making the actual underwriting decision.”

High flying

Born in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1958, Dr Piccard studied medicine with a double specialisation in psychiatry and psychotherapy. In the 1970s, he was one of the pioneers of hang gliding and ultra light flying. An enthusiastic aviator, he then went on to obtain licenses to fly balloons, airplanes, gliders and motor-gliders. His world balloon flight achieved, together with Englishman Brian Jones, the longest non-powered flight ever in the history of aviation.

Most recently, Solar Impulse has been on its Across America flight. It started in Mountain View, California in heart of Silicon Valley, and proceeded in stages to Phoenix, Arizona; Dallas, Texas and St Louis Missouri. The journey will finish in New York City in early July.

Dr Piccard piloted the leg from Dallas to Lambert-St Louis Airport in Missouri on 4 June 2013, his longest ever flight: 21 hours and 22 minutes. The next stage was a flight to Washington DC with a pit stop half-way in Cincinnati to change pilots.

FERMA executive manager, Florence Bindelle, said: “We are excited about hearing the progress of Solar Impulse and Dr Piccard’s approach to controlling the risks of such a revolutionary project.”