Airline confirms first biofuel test flight

[November 12th 2008]

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Air New Zealand will become the first airline to use a commercially viable biofuel in a test flight on December 3rd.

One of the Boeing 747-400’s four Rolls-Royce RB211 engines on the Air New Zealand flight will be part powered by a biofuel derived from jatropha fuel. Jatropha is a plant which produces seeds containing inedible lipid oil which is used to produce fuel.

Air New Zealand and Boeing, along with fuel processing company UOP, are members of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group. The group has been established to speed up the development and commercialisation of sustainable new aviation fuels and reduce dependence on fossil fuels and exposure to oil price volatility.

"This flight strongly supports our efforts to be the world's most environmentally responsible airline. We recently demonstrated the fuel and environmental gains that can be achieved through advanced operational procedures using Boeing 777s,” says Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe.

“We're also modernising our fleet as we await our Trent 1000-powered 787-9 Dreamliners, which will burn 20% less fuel than the planes they replace. Introducing a new generation of sustainable fuels is the next logical step in our efforts to further save fuel and reduce aircraft emissions," adds Fyfe.

The jatropha oil sourced for the test flight is from South Eastern Africa and India and comes from seeds grown on environmentally sustainable farms. Jatropha plants can be grown in difficult conditions, including arid and otherwise non-arable areas, leaving prime areas to be used for food crops.

Rolls-Royce carried out extensive testing on the biofuel at its engine plane in Derby. "Laboratory testing showed the final blend had excellent properties, meeting and in many cases exceeding the stringent technical requirements for fuels used in civil and defense aircraft," explains Rolls-Royce company specialist for fuels, Chris Lewis.

"The blended fuel therefore meets the essential requirement of being a 'drop-in' fuel, meaning its properties will be virtually indistinguishable from conventional fuel, Jet A1, which is used in commercial aviation today," Lewis adds.

Written by: Nick Purdom


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Airline Confirms First Biofuel Test Flight