On 26 July 2016, Solar Impulse—the solar-powered aircraft—landed back at Abu Dhabi, completing an epic round-the- world journey that began in March 2015. Producing its own energy for the entire journey, Solar Impulse flew across four continents, equating to more than 42,000 km and over 555 hours of flight.

The longest leg was an 8,924 km flight from Nagoya in Japan to Hawaii, which lasted nearly 118 hours and saw pilot, André Borschberg, break a world record for the longest uninterrupted solo flight.

IATA was one of the earliest supporters of the Solar Impulse project and its Director General and CEO, Tony Tyler, said “not just the aviation industry, but every air passenger, and indeed every person on the planet, owes huge respect to Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg for their amazing success.

“There is no doubt that Solar Impulse can act as an inspiration to the engineers and designers of future generations of aircraft,” he continued. “Of course, the aviation industry accepts that mass air travel on electric planes remains a long way in the future. Which is why we are doing an immense amount of work to optimize the environmental impact of current technology. Each new generation of jets, such as the B787 and A350, is around 20% greener than its predecessor. Work to make existing aircraft more efficient, for example by adding winglets, and reducing weight on board, further reduces emissions. Governments can help by promoting the widespread rollout of sustainable fuels, which could reduce carbon emissions per flight by up to 80%. The industry also needs governments to focus on infrastructure improvements, particularly to air traffic management, to shorten routes.

“All these improvements to technology, operations, and infrastructure, will ultimately take us to our target of reducing net carbon emissions 50% by 2050, compared with 2005.”