Solar planes to soar in Middle East

Solar powered aeroplanes will eventually replace Middle East carriers' existing fleets if test flights next year prove successful.
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Solar powered aeroplanes will eventually replace Middle East carriers' existing fleets if test flights next year prove successful.

Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's director general and CEO, signed a partnership agreement at the Singapore Airshow with Solar Impulse, which is developing the revolutionary aircraft.

According to Solar Impulse's president Bertrand Piccard, the plane will fly without fuel and produce zero emissions. The aircraft, which is under development, will be capable of flying day and night.

"Our future freedom relies on us converting to renewable energy sources as soon as possible," Piccard said. "In this sense, the vision set by IATA to eliminate all polluting emissions within the next 50 years is admirable."

Test flights will take place next year, with Piccard and Solar Impulse CEO André Borschberg scheduled to fly around the world on the plane in 2011. The round-world trip will involve five stopovers, with IATA ensuring the solar plane's smooth passage throughout the journey.

"Solar Impulse and IATA share a vision," Bisignani said. "We are natural partners. We are both looking towards a zero carbon emission future for air travel. Solar power is one of the building blocks that will make this happen. The Solar Impulse initiative is proof that with vision anything is possible - even carbon free flight."

Replacing existing aircraft with solar powered planes is a long-term strategy to reduce carbon emissions, according to Bisignani. "Achieving zero carbon passenger flights will not happen overnight," he said. "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."

If successful, the aircraft is expected to prove popular among global carriers, including Middle East airlines. But it's unclear when the plane would become operational in this region.

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