IATA partners in solar plane project

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is backing a project to fly a solar-powered aircraft around the world

IATA has become an Institutional Partner of Solar Impulse, which plans to build a plane that flies with no fuel and zero emissions. The agreement, signed by Bertrand Piccard, president of Solar Impulse and Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO of IATA, establishes a framework for cooperation between the two organisations.

Solar Impulse is building the first prototype airplane that aims to demonstrate the feasibility of flying day and night, only propelled by solar energy. The first test flights are due to take place in early 2009. In 2011, Piccard and André Borschberg, CEO, intend to fly around the world with five stop-overs. IATA will provide support including assistance in obtaining air traffic control clearance.

"In one year's time, Solar Impulse will fly without any polluting emissions, but will carry only one person. To achieve IATA's vision there are a little more than 40 years left to find a way to increase the payload to a few hundred passengers," said Piccard.

Bisignani added, "Achieving zero carbon passenger flights will not happen overnight. And no single initiative can provide all the answers. But the airline industry was born by realising a dream that people could fly. We can already see the potential building blocks for a carbon-free future: along with solar power, other exciting initiatives include progress in fuel cell technology, and fuel made from biomass. By working together with a common vision, an even greener industry is absolutely achievable."

In order to complete the round-the-world flight, two airplanes are being built. The prototype will have a 61-metre wingspan and weigh 1,500kg. The final (or record) airplane is likely to have an 80-metre wingspan for 2000kg.

Image: An artist's impression of the Solar Impulse plane

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