At it's Annual General Meeting last year, IATA head Giovanni Bisignani stunned his audience of airline bosses by declaring that in his view the industry should aim for a "zero" emissions future within 50 years.
Uh? How can an industry which relies on fossil fuels for its basic propulsion achieve this? Surely not even Giovanni's fierce will power could pull this one off?
But in addition to some fine words, IATA is trying to back its grand vision, which we applauded back then, with action. It has signed a partnership deal with the Solar Impulse project to help this aircraft on its planned journey around the world.
As my colleagues at Flight reported last year, the Solar Impulse is an aircraft that will fly around the world with no fuel and zero emissions.
As the Solar Impulse website says:
"In a world depending on fossil energies, the Solar Impulse project is a paradox, almost a provocation: it aims to have an airplane take off and fly autonomously, day and night, propelled uniquely by solar energy, right round the world without fuel or pollution. An unachievable goal without pushing back the current technological limits in all fields..."
IATA says its role will be "to help make this dream a reality by providing support including assistance in obtaining air traffic control clearance".
“In one year’s time, Solar Impulse will fly without any polluting emissions, but will carry only one person. To achieve IATA’s vision there are a little more than 40 years left to find a way to increase the payload to a few hundred passengers,” said Bertrand Piccard, President of Solar Impulse.
Now, Giovanni, I have a suggestion - invite Bertrand to the AGM in Istanbul to present his vision to the industry. Come to think of it you probably already have.