Dassault Falcon kicked off its traditional Falcon Family breakfast at NBAA 2011 with a message from chairman Charles Edestenne that the industry must unite to combat threats to its development. He stressed that business aviation is not a luxury, rather, it buys time, which he described as an essential competitive advantage in today’s world.
He also said that the most important market for most manufacturers now is China, given the financial troubles in the U.S. and Europe and political instability in the Middle East. He pointed to the fact that Dassault has invested heavily in Southeast Asia to add parts inventory and extra manpower, and said that the company was evaluating adding a new facility, which would likely be near Beijing, China.
The highlight of the early morning event was speaker Andre Borschberg, CEO of Solar Impulse, the Swiss project that is developing a solar powered long-range airplane. Earlier this year, working with balloon pilot Bertrand Piccard, Borschberg flew 26 hours using only solar energy.
He spoke about the project, which took seven years from conception to execution and said that the Solar Impulse team is working on a second prototype. The mission of the second aircraft, registration number HB-SIB, will be to cross the Atlantic next year, and in 2013 fly around the world in five legs, without fuel or polluting emissions. He anticipated it could be up to 50 years before the world would see large passenger aircraft powered only by solar energy.
Borschberg pointed out that 95 percent of Solar Impulse’s backers come from non-aviation fields, because the purpose of the project is to demonstrate that if an aircraft is capable of flying day and night without burning fossil fuel, it is perfectly possible to do the same for motor vehicles, heating systems, air conditioners or computers.
Dassault has backed the project from the outset, and Dassault Falcon president and CEO John Rosanvallon concluded the breakfast by joking that guests from Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney Canada should be worried as Falcons of the future may well be solar powered.