Luxembourg, 5 August 2013. After its historical flight across the USA, Swiss solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse today returned to Switzerland on board of a Boeing 747 freighter.
In February 2013, Cargolux had successfully flown Solar Impulse from Payerne, a Swiss military airfield, to the United States’ West Coast, from where the solar-powered aircraft was deployed for its ‘Across America’ mission from San Francisco to New York, including five stopovers on the way. In a unique, high-precision operation, the large Cargolux freighter landed and took off from the short runway at Payerne and had to be loaded on the runway itself, because the airfield’s small apron could not handle the large Boeing freighter.
The return flight from New York touched down early morning at Dübendorf, another Swiss military airfield near Zurich. “The arrival of Cargolux’s B747F in Dübendorf officially marks the conclusion of the mission across America and of HB-SIA’s operations. Despite the technical problem encountered during the last flight [Washington D.C. to New York City], the plane is repatriated in flying condition after a brilliant career nearing 500 flight hours. This might prove its engineering excellence but it especially demonstrates how reliable the integrated clean technologies are.” Said André Borschberg (Co-founder, CEO and pilot of Solar Impulse).The Cargolux freighter will again be the largest aircraft to use the airfield and the delicate operation requires the thorough planning and execution that the Cargolux team is known for.
Solar Impulse is the first solar-powered aircraft able to fly day and night. It has already achieved five world records, including the record for the longest day and night solar-powered flight at 26 hours, 10 minutes and 19 seconds. In just over two months, Solar Impulse Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg have now flown the aircraft alternatively from San Francisco to New York, touching down in Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Washington D.C. The landing at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on 6 July 2013 marked the end of a challenging venture and constitutes an incredible historic achievement: crossing the United States without using a drop of fuel, powered only by sunlight. "The first prototype of Solar Impulse is able to fly across a continent, but not yet an ocean. This is why, after the success of the Across America mission, it’s been repatriated to Europe on board of a cargo aircraft. But the second version, the HB-SIB, will fly over the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans on its way around the world in 2015. For this, we will really have to push the use of clean technologies in their ultimate application!" added Bertrand Piccard (Initiator, Chairman and pilot of Solar Impulse).
Cargolux is proud to be involved in this project which demonstrates the shared values and pioneering spirit of both companies. As a worldwide provider of high quality cargo services, Cargolux is aware of its strong responsibility towards the environment, striving to keep the impact of its operation as low as possible. The airline has invested in the most advanced and environmentally friendly large capacity freighter, the Boeing 747-8 Freighter, which shows significant improvements in fuel consumption, noise and CO2 emissions over its predecessor. As a founding member of SAFUG (Sustainable Aviation Fuel User Group), Cargolux has supported the development of bio-fuels and, in this context, the company monitors with interest the development of solar-powered flight, excited to play its small part in the Solar Impulse project.