Air New Zealand declares first
jatropha biofuel flight a success
Jan 5, 2009 - Tom Green - BusinessGreen
|Air New Zealand's
blend of 50 per cent jatropha and 50 per cent
standard jet fuel was used to power one engine
during a flight over Auckland
Air New Zealand last week successfully completed
the world's first test flight of a commercial airliner
running on a jatropha-based biofuel, and immediately
announced that it would now begin work to have the
fuel certified for use in passenger jets.
A blend of 50 per cent jatropha and 50 per cent
standard jet fuel was used to power one engine during
the two hour flight over Auckland, New Zealand,
while a series of in-flight tests were carried out.
Chief Pilot on the flight, Captain David Morgan,
said the biofuel performed well through both the
fuel system and engine.
"To complete our testing programme our engineers
will be thoroughly assessing the engine and fuel
systems looking for any changes as a result of the
use of biofuel," he said. "Together with our partners
on this project we will then review all the results
as part of our drive to have jatropha certified
as an aviation fuel."
The test flight was a joint initiative between
Air New Zealand, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell's
UOP, with support from Terasol Energy.
Experts have voiced concerns that biofuels may
prove ineffective at high altitudes because such
fuels tend to have higher freezing temperatures
than conventional fuels. However, tests were successfully
completed at various altitudes and under a variety
of operating conditions to measure the biofuel's
performance through the engine and fuel system.
Rob Fyfe, chief executive officer of Air New Zealand,
said it is Air New Zealand's long-term goal to become
the world's most environmentally sustainable airline.
"We stand at the earliest stages of sustainable
fuel development and it is exciting to be a part
of this important moment in aviation history," he
Environmental groups have raised concerns over
the extent to which the aviation industry can rely
on biofuels before increased demand for energy crops
leads to increased deforestation and rising food
prices. However, advocates of jatropha-based fuels
claim that the plant can be grown effectively on
marginal land and does not displace other crops.
Air New Zealand said it had sourced and refined
its jatropha oil from environmentally sustainable
farms in South Eastern Africa and India.
The airline is just one of a number of operators
currently racing to develop an officially certified
biofuel-based aviation fuel. Last year, Virgin Atlantic
successfully completed a test flight using a blend
of aviation fuel and babussa oil and is currently
working on an algae-based fuel, while Continental
airlines announced before Christmas that it hopes
to become the first US operator to power a commercial
jet using biofuel in a demonstration flight on this