The Future of Aviation

Bertrand Piccard
September 7, 2016

Bertrand Piccard
Pioneer in the Aviation Industry, Solar Impulse

When my grandfather invented the pressurized cabin and made the first flight ever in the stratosphere in 1931, one of his goals was to demonstrate that it was possible to reach an altitude where fuel consumption would be lower due to thinner air. Eco-friendly aviation was born on that day. That is why I committed myself to achieving the ultimate energy saving: fly around the world with no fuel at all, Solar Impulse’s goal for 2016.

Will commercial aviation soon be able to transport passengers on solar power only? I would be crazy to answer yes and stupid to answer no! The technology doesn’t exist today, but it was also impossible to transport passengers in 1903 when the Wright Brothers did their first flights, with fuel, in a very slow single seater biplane. We know the rest of the story...

This is why I believe in the developments such as the ones made by my friend Richard Branson for cleaner aviation. Biofuel of third generation to decrease the consumption of fossil energy, but also another project I follow with high interest : Virgin Galactic. Not only to bring tourists to the edge of space, but to prepare suborbital air transport. Can you imagine a clean energy takeoff from Europe, climbing to 100km high, followed by a parabolic flight to Australia and a landing an hour later? And you get a zero-gravity experience for the same price… This is what I see as the future of commercial air transport.

Meanwhile, we’ll witness the emergence of cleaner aviation: lighter airplanes, more direct routes, constant descent approaches, and electric motors. Battery driven airplanes with 2 to 4 seats will be available in less than 3 years following the dream of another friend, Erik Lindbergh. And I bet than in 10 years, commercial short haul flights will transport 50 passengers at a time in fully electric carriers. Can you imagine the advantage for the aviation business to have totally silent urban airports for night flights?

We need visions to become a reality. The impossible can be achieved only if we learn how to think and act outside of the usual certitudes and convictions. This is called pioneering spirit and it’s what we all need to invent a better future. 

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