January 19, 2010 -- Is it possible to build an airplane that can fly without gasoline? Yes, says innovator named Betrand Piccard. When Bertrand Piccard came up with his audacious plan to fly around the world in an aircraft powered only by the sun, he found that airplane manufacturers were skeptical such a plane could be built.
So who built the first model of "Solar Impulse," Piccard's $72-million solar-powered craft? A company that makes ships.
Piccard, who won the first transatlantic balloon race and commanded the first balloon flight around the world, told CNN, "Each time we asked the aeronautical industry to build that airplane, they told us it's impossible. We cannot make an airplane so light and so big. So who did we ask for some help? A boat manufacturer. They had no idea it was impossible, so they built the pieces in carbon fiber and now we have an airplane."
The plane is made by the Swiss company Decision SA, which made the America's Cup-winning Alinghi.
"People put limitations on their creativity, believing they have to rely on what they know and what they have done," Piccard says. He sees the Solar Impulse venture as a way to dramatically demonstrate that it's possible to make a sharp break with the past -- in this case, by showing that renewable energy can replace fossil fuel.
"A lot of industries say we have a society based on oil dependency, so let's continue. ... We know how to deal with oil. The result is General Motors and Chrysler going bankrupt. It's a typical example of people who did not make the turnaround early enough. If GM made engines with much lower fuel consumption, they would not have gone bankrupt."
"We have to get rid of certainties, habits, paradigms, common assumptions," Piccard says. "These are the limits to creativity."
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