When someone says that a change in mind-set is what is needed to cut down on emissions globally and thus help the environment, the comment is considered with cynicism. But not when the person making the statement is Bertrand Piccard, the first person to fly around the world in an aircraft powered only by solar batteries. The Solar Impulse that Piccard flew did not use a single drop of fuel.
When Piccard started on his mission to circumnavigate the world in Solar Impulse he had to face ridicule and laughter. Now after having flown 40,000 km without using any fuel, he calls Solar Impulse “just the flagship of this movement (green technology).” Solar Impulse covered this distance in 17 legs spread over 15 months and crossed Asia, the Pacific, USA, Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Middle East powered purely by the energy of the sun. Talking to the global meeting assembled in Geneva to attend the opening session of the International Air Transport Association Global Media day Piccard emphasised on the need to change mind-sets if we wanted to bring about change in reality.
Terming aviation as a wonderful symbol of innovation, development, technology and exploration, Piccard said, “We wanted to show that clean technology and renewable energy can achieve impossible goals.” And that is what Solar Impulse managed to do.
Having achieved all this, Piccard now feels that it is not a question of finding the technology as it is already available but the question now is finding the right mind-set. Giving an example, he said a change in the mind-set of Air Traffic Controllers to allow an aircraft landing to make a direct approach rather than a step-by-step approach will help a Boeing 747 Jumbo jet save one tonne of fuel during each landing. Or the manner in which the Chairman of Dallas Forth Worth airport’s concerns about the environment helped it become the first carbon neutral airport in the US.
“I think it is absolutely fantastic that aviation showed something so impossible. Because when the Wright brothers were flying it was a wonder, when people went on the moon it was a wonder.
When the speed of sound was broken it was a wonder. When the Atlantic was crossed it was a wonder. We have to continue to inspire people,” he pointed out. On what is being planned next, he said the other thing he was working on as a direct consequence of the Solar Impulse project is the creation of the World Alliance for Clean Technologies to bring together all actors of the clean technology world.
“Which means start-ups or small companies, big companies, institutions, labs or universities, who would study, produce, consume or promote clean technologies.
The goal is to bring a thousand solutions that are profitable and clean that can reconcile ecology and economy and allow the governments of international institutions to reach the goals that they set in terms of CO2 reduction in the next two years,” Piccard said.