At a time when the world focuses on the best ways to work on sustainable energy, life is not easy for flying heavy carriers, and charter airliners have to suffer comparison with other modes of transport. Unlike the increasingly popular electric buses, hybrid cars and magnetic trains, planes are still flying on good, old, polluting kerosene. But we might be on the verge of a revolution similar to what happened to the first airplanes slightly over a century ago.
Planes Go Green, an episode from the program Matière Grise (Gray Matter), introduces Swift, a motor-less airplane that is very sturdy despite weighing only 50 kg. Which allows you to lift it into the air by foot, as you would a glider. With a record distance of 800 km and a top speed of 120 km/h, this airplane is not a bad idea at all!
But would it be possible to fly around the world in a plane that runs exclusively on solar energy, has the size of an Airbus, the weight of a car, and the power of a scooter? That basically sums up the Solar Impulse's technical specifications. A 61 m wingspan for 1,500 kg and just about 12 HP, which is basically as much power as the Wright brothers could get from their first aircraft back in 1903!
The era of clean flying seems to have kicked in. Even on conventional planes tests are being carried out to see if traditional fuel could be replaced with biofuel, hydrogen or natural gas. In the meantime, flight routes are being streamlined in an attempt to make them shorter and save time, money and fuel in the process.