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A week of high fliers

Briefing begins the week with congratulations for the team behind Solar Impulse 2, which has carried out its first flight in Switzerland.

Solar Impulse 2, led by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, took its first flight out of the Payerne aerodrome in preparation for the first solar-powered flight around the world in 2015.

For 2 hours 17 minutes, test pilot Marcus Scherdel trialed the single-seater aircraft’s performance, with initial results said to be in line with calculations and simulations. Several more flights will take place in the coming months in order for this aircraft to attain certification.

The Q&A feature in June 2014’s issue of The Engineer is dedicated to Solar Impulse, with key members of the team answering your questions about the 2.3-tonne carbon-fibre aircraft.

Source: Solar Impulse

Congratulations also to Airbus, which has commenced early long haul flights of its A350XWB with cabin crew and passengers.

The company says an A350 (MSN 002) test aircraft has taken off on the first of two early long flights from Toulouse-Blagnac airport, adding that the two flights will be operated in a real airline environment with Air France and Lufthansa cabin crew.

Covering all types of flight conditions, the flights will be completed during the week with almost 250 passengers on board comprising Airbus employees, and some 30 cabin experts from Airbus and equipment manufacturers.

Tomorrow sees the Royal Aeronautical Society host the Westminster Higher Education Forum Keynote Seminar titled Developing the next generation of scientists and engineers.

The organisers say the seminar will look at the challenges in increasing the number of young people who choose Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and careers, and follows concerns about the lack of STEM graduates taking up careers in these subjects.

They add that planned sessions will look also at ways in which government and the HE sector can encourage more young people to study STEM subjects at all levels of education, as well as ways to improve careers guidance for those who do.

Prof John Perkins, chief scientific adviser, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Lis Edwards, senior higher education policy adviser, North, HEFCE have been named as guests of honour.

Finally, there’s one day to go until the start of the annual The Engineer conference, which is taking place during Subcon 2014 at Birmingham NEC.

You may have read this before, but for those of you who have not: attendees will get to hear about the latest innovations in some of the most exciting engineering projects happening in the world today. Among those presenting, the technical director and chief designer of Reaction Engines, Richard Varvill, will discuss the progress of the hypersonic SABRE Engine and plans for the Skylon space plane.

Airbus Defence and Space (formerly Astrium) will be sending one of its prototype rovers for the 2018 ExoMars mission, accompanied by spacecraft structures engineer - and current Young Woman Engineer of the Year - Abby Hutty to explain the challenges involved in developing it. Similarly, one of the key figures behind the recreation of the only aircraft Bugatti ever designed (which was smuggled out of Paris to prevent it falling into Nazi hands), will reveal how his team brought the plane to life from its original 1930s plans and now plans to take it to the skies. Read more about this event here.


Readers' comments (3)

  • If you feel you really must use the pseudo-legal word 'trialled' (actually 'tried'), could you at least try to spell it correctly? What's wrong with good old-fashioned 'tried' or 'tested', which is what engineers do?

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  • Nice that Solar Impulse is flying, and will at some point attempt a round the world non stop flight (could it just hover and let the world rotate under it?), but what is the end point of this other than to set a new entry in the Guinness Book Of Records? It is never going to be scaleable for use as a passenger transport, nor will it be fast enough for military strike use, so what exactly will the next step be?
    The Airbus sounds positive, and I am sure will be very saleable. Perhaps they could adopt the solar cell array from Solar Impulse 2 to run the air-conditioning?

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  • While not relevant to passenger transport I think the technology being developed as part of Solar Impulse 2 does have value for other sectors, especially if they prove the aircraft has the capacity to operate through the night.

    In terms of military use speed isn’t everything and one of the key requirements for surveillance uses is flight time/refuelling. Imagine a solar powered drone capable of staying in the air almost indefinitely.

    Also both Google and Facebook are looking to create aerial systems to deliver internet/wi-fi coverage to rural areas in the developing world so there could be another area of opportunity.

    (To ‘hover’ the aircraft would effectively have to travel as fast as the earth is spinning in the opposite direction, that or go into orbit...)

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