Air New Zealand makes first biofuel-powered commercial flight

Wednesday, 31 December 2008, 03:01 Hrs
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Auckland: Air New Zealand Tuesday successfully conducted the first biofuel powered commercial aviation test flight.

The Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet took off from the Auckland International Airport at 11.30 a.m. Tuesday (2230 GMT Monday), with a 50-50 blend of biofuel derived from African jatropha plant and Jet A1 aviation fuel to power one of the aircraft's four Rolls-Royce engines. A six-member crew, including the flight crew, were on board the plane.

After the two-hour flight over the Hauraki Gulf, Air New Zealand chief pilot David Morgan told reporters that the fuel performed well "through both the fuel system and engine."

"We accomplished everything we set out to do. It was very successful," Morgan said at a post-flight press briefing on board the plane.

"To complete our testing programme, our engineers will over the next few days be thoroughly assessing the engine and fuel systems looking for any changes as a result of the use of biofuel," he said.

Mogan added that more than a dozen key performance tests were undertaken during the flight and information obtained during the flight would be reviewed with Boeing and Rolls-Royce, as part of a drive to have jatropha certified as an aviation fuel.

The tests were completed at various altitudes under a variety of operating conditions.

The test flight, over the Hauraki Gulf of the North Island of New Zealand, was a joint effort between Air New Zealand, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and UOP, a refining technology company.

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe said: "It is Air New Zealand's long-term goal to become the world's most environmentally sustainable airline and we have today made further significant progress towards this."

The airline said the jatropha oil used for the flight came from seeds grown on environmentally sustainable farms in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and India.

Jatropha grows about three meters high and produces seeds that contain inedible lipid oil used to produce fuel. Jatropha can be grown in a range of difficult conditions, including arid and otherwise non-arable areas, meaning that prime farming areas remain undisturbed.

Auckland-based Air New Zealand plans to meet at least 10 percent of its annual fuel need with crop-based alternatives by 2013.

But Fyfe, the airlines' chief executive, told Xinhua that they only planned to use the biofuel at its domestic flight.
Source: IANS
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