THE Paris Air Show, one of the oldest and biggest events of its kind, gets under way at Le Bourget on June 20th with many of the exhibitors keen to promote greener aviation. Besides aircraft powered by biofuel and new lightweight fuel-saving designs, such as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, there is plenty of other kit promising to help make aircraft more efficient. But nothing could match the rather ungainly bird that touched down on runway 21 in the evening on June 14th.
The aircraft, known as HB-SIA, has the wingspan of a jumbo jet but just a tiny single-person cockpit. It is designed to be powered only by sunlight. HB-SIA was built by a Swiss-based project called Solar Impulse, which was set up by Bertrand Piccard, an adventurer who helped to pilot the first balloon to fly around the world, and André Borschberg, a fighter pilot and engineer. Their ultimate aim with Solar Impulse is to build an aircraft that can circle the world using only the power of the sun.