Solar-powered aircraft performs first international flight

16 May 2011

Solar Impulse, the Swiss solar powered plane, made a successful maiden international flight over the weekend, heralding a new era in greener aviation.

The aircraft took off from Payerne in western Switzerland on May 13 and landed safely in Brussels after a 13-hour flight, passing over France and Luxemburg. The plane uses 12,000 solar cells and no fuel at all, but still has a long way to go before going commercial as it can only travel at an average speed of 50 km/h.

Previously, Solar Impulse successfully carried out test flights but those did not cross international borders.

Andre Borschberg, chief executive and cofounder of the project, said: “To fly without fuel, noise or pollution, making practically no negative impact, is a great source of satisfaction.”

The US$128 million Solar Impluse project began in 2003, involving engineers from Swiss lift maker Schindler and researchers from Solvay, a Belgian chemicals group.

Fortunately, this is not the only green initiative on the aviation horizon. Several carriers have been looking into the use of biofuels and other initiatives (see story here).

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Alisha Haridasani

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