European Flights for Solar Impulse

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Solar Impulse, the first solar airplane to fly overnight (26 hours – minutes), will voyage from its native Switzerland to Lausanne and Brussels, Belgium – its first European destination – on  28 April 2011.  The airplane will be displayed in the European capital from 23 to 29 May 2011 and will then attempt to fly on to Paris-Le Bourget, where it is eagerly awaited as the “Special Guest” of the 49th International Paris Air Show from 20 to 26 June 2011.HB-SIA’s press release continues, “In 2008, even before the solar airplane existed, the European Commission had publicly sponsored Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg’s project. Three years later, by accomplishing the first flight through a whole day and night, lasting over 26 hours, without using fuel, Solar Impulse has proven the immense potential of new technologies in terms of energy savings and production of renewable energies.  It was therefore quite natural that Brussels Airport was chosen for Solar Impulse’s first destination.” “”This time, we have a real airplane – flying – proof that new technologies can reduce our dependence on fossil energy- to help us continue supporting the European institutions’ efforts to adopt ambitious energy policies’ says Bertrand Piccard, the Founder and President of the Solar Impulse project, enthusiastically.”Preparing for its first international flight to Brussels is a big technical challenge for the whole Solar Impulse team with test flights intended to train the pilot and ground crew, according Flight Director Raymond Clerc.”  To operate in environments as complex as the international air traffic network and the taxiways of Brussels Airport, the 14th biggest European airport, means anticipating and studying every possible eventuality, so as to be able to react quickly if unexpected circumstances arise. Because of the airplane’s categorisation as “experimental”, special authorisations, requiring lengthy procedures had to be obtained from the civil aviation authorities in each of the countries overflown. Solar Impulse is delighted with the excellent spirit of cooperation that has been established with all the aviation authorities during this process.

The prototype will be ready for take-off as from 2 May 2011 and will depart as soon as the weather permits. Confirmation of the impending flight will be communicated 24 hours in advance via and the flight can be followed live on-line. Having to be in Brussels by 23 May at the latest represents an additional source of pressure for the Flight Director, who will have to find a favorable weather window at a time of year that often has unpredictable conditions. To ensure its safety and success, a mission as challenging as this requires contributions from a whole team of specialists, including meteorological experts from the Royal Belgian Meteorological Institute (IRM), notably route-planner Luc Trullemans, air traffic controllers, engineers and IT specialists.

“‘Flying an aircraft like Solar Impulse through European airspace to land at an international airport is an incredible challenge for all of us, and success depends on the support we receive from all the authorities concerned,'” stressed André Borschberg, co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse.”

The selection of Brussels Airport as the first international destination for the Solar Impulse airplane is a logical development of its role as the airport for the capital of the European Community.  Arnaud Feist, the CEO of Brussels Airport Company, is very enthusiastic about being able to welcome the airplane onto the tarmac of Brussels Airport.  “‘This airplane, the first to function without fossil fuel and without emitting CO2, symbolises magnificently the great efforts the aeronautical industry is making to develop new technologies for energy saving and increased use of renewable energies. The European airport sector is also very active in developing its activities in a responsible and durable manner. Evidence of this can be seen in the important projects implemented by Brussels Airport in recent years in the environmental field: a new waste water treatment plant, the plan to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% in the framework of the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, our participation in the European Continuous Descent Operations and Collaborative Decision Making programmes, … Given our ambition to continue reducing our CO2 emissions, we attach particular importance to solar energy generation projects. Therefore, we are delighted that Solar Impulse selected Brussels Airport as its first international destination.'”

Solar Impulse’s week on display at Brussel Airport company will be a perfect display for the European Council for Renewable Energy Sources (EUFORES), whose theme will be  “Resource Efficiency – Using less, living better.”   Solar Impulse’s arrival also coincides with “Green Week, the largest annual conference on European environmental policy, with several European Commissioners includng a visit to Solar Impulse in their programmes.  The decision-makers of tomorrow will not be forgotten either, because Friday 27 May will be devoted to students. A lecture by project founders Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg will allow them to find out all about the Solar Impulse project, the airplane and the messages it conveys. Many other events are in preparation and the latest developments in the programme are communicated regularly through”

Solar Impulse is probably the slowest aircraft to ever visit Brussels Airport ever, with its “more than 17.2 million passengers and over 480 000 tons of freight each year.  The airport is run by The Brussels Airport Company, whose shareholders are the Belgian state (25%) and a consortium of private investors (75%).

“Solar Impulse HB-SIA, the first aeroplane designed to fly day and night without requiring fuel and without producing carbon emissions, demonstrates the enormous potential held by new technologies in terms of energy savings and renewable energy production. Seven years of intensive work, calculations and tests by a team of 70 people and 80 partners have contributed to producing this revolutionary carbon fibre aeroplane, with a wingspan as wide as that of an Airbus A340 (63.4m) and a weight equivalent to that of an average family car. It is the largest aeroplane of its weight ever to have been built. The 12,000 solar cells integrated into the wing supply four electric motors (maximum power 10CV each) with renewable energy and charge the 400kg (880 pounds) lithium polymer batteries during the day, enabling the aircraft to fly at night. The Solar Impulse project is supported, among others, by: Solvay, Omega, Deutsche Bank and Schindler as Principal Partners; Bayer Material Science and Altran as Official Partners; EPFL (Lausanne Federal Institute of Technology) as Official Scientific Consultant and Dassault-Aviation as Aviation Consultant.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *