Friday, August 9, 2013

Labour Troubles Over, Cargo Airline Moves Freight of the Future

Shares Still Up For Sale as Solar Powered Aircraft Returns Home
Shipping News Feature

LUXEMBOURG – SWITZERLAND – US – It seems to be better times for Cargolux, Europe’s largest freight only airline, following what can only be described as a fairly torrid time of late with the imprisonment of executives in 2011 followed by problems at home. Following the Qatari pull out from the company which left 35% of the shares in the hands of the Luxembourg government, the airline was hit by labour troubles which should, if everything goes to schedule, be resolved today. Meanwhile the company has once again played a major part in the logistics involved in transporting the revolutionary Solar Impulse, the plane which flies only using the power of the sun, following its record breaking flight across America.

The Cargolux management and representatives from the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (LCGB) and OGBL union are due to sign off on an agreement to reinstate a reworked Collective Work Agreement (CWA) following the successful Comité Mixte* negotiations. This presumably smooths the path for Interim President & CEO, Senior VP & Chief Financial Officer Richard Forson, to set about finding a suitable partner to relieve the government of those shares.

On the operational front the company has successfully flown the ground breaking Swiss solar powered craft back home after a triumphant trip to the ‘States. In February 2013, Cargolux had successfully flown Solar Impulse from Payerne, a Swiss military airfield, to the United States’ West Coast, from where the aircraft was deployed for its ‘Across America’ mission from San Francisco to New York, including five stopovers on the way. In a unique, high-precision operation, the large Cargolux freighter landed and took off from the short runway at Payerne and had to be loaded on the runway itself, because the airfield’s small apron simply could not handle a plane of the Boeing freighter’s size.

Solar Impulse is the first solar-powered aircraft able to fly day and night. It has already achieved five world records, including the record for the longest day and night solar-powered flight at 26 hours, 10 minutes and 19 seconds. In just over two months, Solar Impulse Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg have now flown the aircraft alternatively from San Francisco to New York, touching down in Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Washington D.C.

The landing at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on 6 July 2013 marked the end of a challenging venture and constitutes an incredible historic achievement: crossing the United States without using a drop of fuel, powered only by sunlight. The return flight from New York touched down early on Monday morning at Dübendorf, another Swiss military airfield near Zurich and once again it took a skilled Cargolux team to manage the operation. André Borschberg, co-founder, CEO and pilot of Solar Impulse, commented:

"The arrival of Cargolux’s B747F in Dübendorf officially marks the conclusion of the mission across America and of HB-SIA’s operations. Despite the technical problem encountered during the last flight [Washington D.C. to New York City], the plane is repatriated in flying condition after a brilliant career nearing 500 flight hours. This might prove its engineering excellence but it especially demonstrates how reliable the integrated clean technologies are.

"The first prototype of Solar Impulse is able to fly across a continent, but not yet an ocean. This is why, after the success of the Across America mission, it’s been repatriated to Europe on board of a cargo aircraft. But the second version, the HB-SIB, will fly over the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans on its way around the world in 2015. For this, we will really have to push the use of clean technologies in their ultimate application!"

Solar Impulse is currently building this second-generation aircraft that will replace the current aircraft and, as a founding member of SAFUG (Sustainable Aviation Fuel User Group), Cargolux supports the development of bio-fuels and monitors with interest the development of solar-powered flight, saying it is excited to play its small part in the Solar Impulse project.

*a term explained in our story last month.

Photo: Loading and unloading the delicate craft was more than a little tricky!

About Solar Impulse

Swiss pioneers Dr Bertrand Piccard (Chairman) and André Borschberg (CEO) are the founders, pilots and the driving force behind Solar Impulse, the first airplane that can fly day and night without fuel. Solar Impulse is a unique adventure that aims to bring emotions back at the heart of scientific exploration, a flying laboratory to find innovative technological solutions for today’s challenges and a vision to inspire each of us to be pioneers in our everyday lives.

The revolutionary carbon fibre airplane has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 (63.4m / 208 ft) and the weight of a small car (1,600kg / 3,527 lb). It is the result of seven years of intense work, calculations, simulations and tests by a team of about 80 people and 100 partners and advisors. A plane so big and light has never been built before. The 12,000 solar cells built into the wing provide four 10HP electric motors with renewable energy. By day the solar cells recharge the 400kg / 881 lb lithium batteries which allow the plane to fly at night.