ABU DHABI // Dutchman Jeff Appeldoorn had never thought of himself as being lucky, so was less than uplifted when he noticed the competition to see Solar Impulse 2 complete its circumnavigation in Abu Dhabi.
But despite being convinced that he wouldn’t win, the Dutchman sent in an application.
“Three weeks ago, I saw the competition on the website. I was thinking, ‘should I click on it?’ I never win a challenge so I thought I would not,” he said.
So when Mr Appeldoorn received a call to say he would be travelling to Abu Dhabi to see history being made, “it was an ‘oh my God moment'”.
Mr Appeldoorn arrived in Abu Dhabi on Monday as part of the competition held by Masdar to fly out two people to witness the landing of the solar-powered aircraft where it took off last year on its fuel-free mission.
The competition drew 110,000 people hoping to win a chance to attend the landing.
Mr Appeldoorn, a 31-year-old software engineer, has been following the plane’s journey since it took off, going online and looking at the live feeds.
As a huge fan of technology and planes, Mr Appeldoorn was still in shock at his win on arrival in the UAE.
“I always loved planes since I was young and I would also like to be a pilot, so for me to see SI2 land, you’re getting close to the cockpit and to see the newest technology, that’s really special for me,” he said.
Mr Appeldoorn is not only interested in the technology but, as an aspiring pilot, he has a fascination with the pilots themselves.
“I’m very enthusiastic to see what it can do without fuel and, the pilots, what they do is a sport, it’s like marathon running to be able to fly anywhere in the world without fuel for days; it’s really amazing,” he said.
Mr Appeldoorn decided that he would bring his father, Leen, with him to Abu Dhabi for the landing.
“I find the whole idea very interesting and I am looking forward to seeing the plane and my son’s excitement for it – he’s always loved planes, more than me,” said 62-year old Leen.
Dr Nawal Al Hosan, executive director of sustainability and brand at Masdar, said that the company was proud to support the cause and involve more people in the landing.
“We congratulate Jeff Appeldoorn and his father on being selected as the grand prize winners. We are delighted to have provided the opportunity for this family from the Netherlands to visit Abu Dhabi,” the Emirati said.
The plane is expected to take off from Cairo this week and return to Abu Dhabi to complete the first around-the-world trip using only solar power.
“I really hope they take off soon. I will have to ask for more time off [from work] if it takes longer, so I don’t know.
“I just really want to see the landing in person,” Mr Appeldoorn said.
Source: uae news