Solar Plane Attempts First International Flight (With Video)

In the framework of its European solar flight campaign, Solar Impulse, under the patronage of the European Commission, has selected Brussels as its first international destination. The airplane will be displayed in the European capital from  May 23 to 29, 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 June 20 to 26, 2011.

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 more than 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" said Bertrand Piccard, the founder and president of the Solar Impulse project.

First flight outside Swiss borders
Quite apart from its symbolic significance, this first international flight to Brussels is also a big technical challenge for the whole Solar Impulse team. In parallel with test flights intended to train the pilot and ground crew, Flight Director Raymond Clerc and his team have been preparing these international flights for months. 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 May 2, 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" said André Borschberg, co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse.

Brussels as the first international destination
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, symbolizes 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 percent 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.