Saturday, November 22, 2008

Solar flight hopes to land Chinese stop

Solar aircraft maker Solar Impulse hopes China could be one of five stops when it flies a solar-powered plane around the world in 2011.

The company and its partner - the International Air Transport Association - presented the project to Chinese authorities and aviation industry stakeholders yesterday at a seminar in Shanghai. They would like China to be part of this project by, for example, being one of the solar aircraft's five stopovers.

The Switzerland-based firm will test its first solar aircraft next year by conducting a 36-hour zero-fuel flight and construct a second aircraft in 2010.

The second aircraft, which can seat only one person, will make a flight lasting about a month around the world in 2011 with five stopovers including the United Arab Emirates, Hawaii, Florida and south Europe.

The aircraft's batteries will be charged using power from the sun when the plane is flying during the day so that it can fly at night. Each aircraft will cost US$5 million to make, said Bertrand Piccard, initiator and president of Solar Impulse. IATA has a vision of eliminating all polluting emissions by 2050 and the two partners target to achieve a 25-percent improvement in fuel efficiency by 2020.

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