Home' Asian Aviation : AAV April 2010 Contents Andrzej Jeziorski
ere are many reasons to be excited about the Solar Impulse
project -- a Swiss-based e ort to build an entirely solar-
powered aircra capable of ying non-stop around the world
with two pilots on board (see story, p. 21).
It represents an impressive, fresh drive to harness the sun as a
useful, everyday energ y source, o ering a clean alternative to
conventional fuels. Coming at a time when oil prices are erratic,
oil supplies nite and concern about pollution is at a peak, Solar
Impulse adds impetus to the development of technolog y that
could help free us of our enslavement to fossil fuels.
Furthermore, if the aircra does indeed achieve its stated
goal, it will be the closest the world has come to creating a
'perpetual ight' aircra . Such machines could soon o er a
cost-e ective alternative to some satellites as high-altitude
sensor or communications platforms.
Finally, there are few true aviation adventures le to undertake
and the spirit in which Solar Impulse's initiator, psychiatrist
and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard, is approaching the project is
reminiscent of the early years of air travel -- which were really
not that long ago, it's worth remembering.
It's not much more than a century since the Wright brothers
completed the rst successful powered ight of a heavier-
than-air aircra -- a ight that covered a distance of just 120 .
A er the Wrights set the ball rolling, aeronautical engineering
developed amazingly fast, with air power playing a crucial and
unprecedented role during the First World War and the rst
transatlantic ight by John Alcock and Arthur Brown in 1919,
eight years before Charles Lindbergh's pioneering solo ight
from New York to Paris.
Today, it's easy to be blasé about aviation. It's a routine part
of everyday life and the basic design of the modern jetliner is
remarkably similar in many ways to the design of early models
such as the Boeing 707. e advances have come in the form
of technological re nements that most casual travellers would
But an aircra that can y around the world carrying no fuel
whatsoever? Generating zero harmful emissions? at would
certainly spark the public's interest, helping inspire a new
generation of engineering innovators and demonstrating how
much can still be improved in aircra design.
All it took was a 120 hop in the Wright yer to set a ball rolling
that led to the creation of today's massive airline industry. e
prototype Solar Impulse aircra has already completed its
one-and-a-half-hour maiden ight and construction of its rst
successor, which will, it is hoped, circumnavigate the Earth in
ve stages, will begin next year.
While solar power is still a long way from being a viable
alternative to jet fuel, who knows how things may look in 20
years' time? e history of this industry is a vivid illustration
of how quickly the seemingly impossible can become entirely
possible, once enough people apply their ingenuity to make
Solar Impulse offers
inspiration to the industry
is issue's news section leads with a welcome breath of
optimism from the International Air Transport Association
(IATA), which has signi cantly improved its forecast for the
nancial performance of the global industry this year.
While we are still looking at an industry-wide loss of US$2.8
billion, that's just half of what IATA was predicting at the
end of 2009.
But the gures show a sharp disparity among the various
regions, with the Asia-Paci c and Latin America the only
two that will actually be pro table this year. In Asia, airlines
will probably make a US$900 million pro t compared
with their US$2.7 billion loss from 2009. Latin American
carriers are expected to repeat their performance from last
year, turning a pro t of US$800 million.
e worst of the regions will be Europe, where airlines are
likely to post a US$2.2 billion loss, re ecting a slow pace of
economic recovery and faltering consumer con dence.
" e stark contrast between pro tability among Asian
and Latin American carriers while losses continue to
plague the rest of the industry clearly demonstrates the
fact that airlines have not been able to develop into global
businesses," says IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani. "The
restrictions of the bilateral system prevent the kind of cross-
border consolidation that we have seen in industries such as
pharmaceuticals or telecoms."
Airlines, Bisignani argues, have had to face the crisis without
the bene t of tools available to other industries. "It's time for
change," he says.
IATA's Agenda for Freedom initiative led to the signing late
last year of a statement of policy principles on liberalising
market access, pricing and ownership. e statement was
signed by the governments of Chile, Malaysia, Panama,
Singapore, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the
United States, as well as the European Commission. Kuwait
later joined in March.
" e second stage talks between the US and Europe are
the big opportunity for 2010," Bisignani says. " e slow
recovery in both markets should be an invitation for change.
Liberalising ownership would boost both markets," and send
a strong signal for global change.
"Brands, not ags, must guide the industry to sustainable
pro tability," the IATA chief says. ●
Asia leads the way to recovery
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