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Solar powered plane halfway through its trip

30th May 2012

Boarding a plane fuelled by solar power might not be the ideal option for most of us, but this hasn't stopped the Swiss from trying.

So far their efforts have proved a success - Solar Impulse, as the aircraft is known, has completed half its journey from western Switzerland to the Moroccan city of Rabat.

The 2,500-kilometre flight lasted around 17 hours and much to the relief of pilot Andre Borschberg, apparently went without a hitch.

He owed part of the success of the flight to the work of meteorologists, which as you can imagine play a pretty significant role when your plane relies on the sun for its energy!

Andre commented: "It was incredible to fly alongside the barrier of clouds during most of the flight and not need to hesitate to fly above them.

"This confirms our confidence in the capacity of solar energy even further."

The plane will now remain in Madrid for the next three days to undergo scheduled maintenance work, as well as get itself a new pilot who will guide Solar Impulse over to Rabat.

You may well be asking yourselves what this grand invention means for us everyday folk - will we all be travelling the world on solar powered planes sometime soon?

It's unlikely, but what these Swiss scientists hoped to achieve is the opening up of avenues of communication between political and economic bigwigs about how carbon emissions can be reduced.

The inventors suggest that the aviation industry "must clearly change to survive", especially in light of the rising cost of kerosene and carbon taxes.

Bertrand Piccard from the Solar Impulse team explained that the "airplane is not designed to carry passengers, but to carry a message", namely that there are alternatives to the polluting technologies currently used by airlines.

As Australia prepares to welcome the carbon tax on July 1, this has never been more important in the minds of aviation companies.

Higher taxes faced by the airlines means heftier prices for us when we travel - an expense most of us could do without!

It's likely to be some time yet before real change is implemented by airlines, but that's not to say it won't happen at all.

Airlines will eventually start looking for ways to get around the various environmental taxes they face - and solar power could provide the answer.

Posted by Mike Peacock


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