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Tue, Jul 12, 2005

Piccard Plans Circumnavigation In Solar Plane

Faster Than A Balloon

Bertrand Piccard is planning to fly around the world in a solar powered airplane. The Swiss adventurer announced that he plans to build "Solar Impulse" with help from the European Space Agency. His flight, planned for 2010 is to demonstrate and develop renewable energies and new technologies.

No stranger to adventure, Piccard made the first nonstop around-the-world balloon flight in 1999 with co-pilot Brian Jones. They were successful on the third attempt.

Jones will be one of Solar Impulse's three pilots. Piccard and Andre Borschberg, Solar Impulse's CEO, will join him in the cockpit of Solar Impulse in 2010.

"Solar Impulse will promote the idea of a new aviation era using cleaner planes powered by the almost infinite energy of the sun rather than the dirty, finite reserves of fossil fuels," said Piccard.

The ESA has developed "efficient solar cells, intelligent energy management systems and resourceful storage systems," said Pierre Brisson, head of ESA's Technology Transfer Program.

"We will make available this expertise, together with our advanced technologies, to support Piccard's effort to demonstrate the potential of sustainable development," said Brisson.

"Although in its present design the craft will never be able to carry many passengers, we believe that Solar Impulse can spark awareness about the technologies that can make sustainable development possible," said Piccard.

Piccard plans to fly west to east, 10 to 30 degrees north of the equator, to take best advantage of the winds and sunlight. Solar Impulse's concept and design was displayed in June at the Paris air show.

Piccard and his crew will be on a tight schedule if they hope to accomplish their goal. The aircraft should be built by 2007, test flown in 2008, and have a few multiple-day solar flights completed before any attempt can be made to go around the world.

FMI: www.solar-impulse.com

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