The Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) may have been the first solar-powered aircraft to circumnavigate the globe after touching down in Abu Dhabi on July 26, but it wasn’t exactly alone. To earn this achievement, Si2 had to make multiple stops along the way, and charter carriers Chapman Freeborn and Volga-Dnepr were on hand throughout the flight, providing logistical assistance, including both chartered aircraft to transport spare parts, a mobile hangar and the technical team.
The record-setting, round-the-world trip started in March 2016 and came to a conclusion in Abu Dhabi after 23 days of flight, covering a distance of 43,041 kilometers over the course of its 17-leg journey.
Volga-Dnepr Airlines supplied the Si2’s mission with an IL-76TD-90VD and an ATR-72 aircraft, while Chapman Freeborn’s “Wings 24” in-house flight support team helped manage the project’s operations. This included arranging flight permits and customs clearances, organizing ground handling, and immigration arrangements for the transport airplanes.
While the solar plane itself only weighed 2.3 tonnes – despite having a longer wingspan than a Boeing 747 – its requisite gear outweighed it by orders of magnitude. Support aircraft flew more than 25 tonnes of technical equipment to various stops along the journey, as well as crew members and other personnel throughout the mission. The flights assured that equipment and crews were waiting at airports around the world for the solar plane to arrive at each planned stop. Volga-Dnepr also ensured that an IL-76TD-90VD was on standby, ready to support Si2 in case of an emergency.
Pierre van der Stichele, cargo business development director at Chapman Freeborn, recounted that, “the project required all of our global charter market expertise, as we were working around Si2’s changeable flight schedules – with support solutions required in Asia, North America, Europe and North Africa.”
Georgy Sokolov, regional sales manager at Volga-Dnepr Airlines, added that the operation “demanded a level of flexibility far beyond a usual charter operation, as we had to be ready to mobilize our aircraft at extremely short notice. It was also appropriate that the modernized IL-76TD-90VD supporting Si2 features significantly improved operating efficiencies and lower emissions.”
Join us for networking and discussion of logistics innovation at Air Cargo World’s new ELEVATE 2016 Conference, Oct. 10, in Miami.