First Commercial Jet Flight on Biofuel… Sort Of…

Lot’s of caveats on this one… only one of the plane’s engines… an 80/20% mixture… but still, it is the first commercial airline plane flying (somewhat) on biofuel! Kudos to Branson for giving it a go! It is a start!

Can Airplanes Fly on Biofuel?

“There were a couple of strange things about the Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 that taxied out along one of London Heathrow’s two main runways and took off into the bright sky late Sunday morning. First, there were only five people on board, while more than 100 watched intently from a nearby hangar. Second, the plane was the first commercial jet ever to fly on biofuel: a fuel produced from plant matter instead of petroleum or other fossil fuels. ‘This is the first stage on a journey towards renewable fuel,’ Virgin founder Richard Branson told reporters in the hangar shortly before take-off, his voice drowned out every now and then by the roar of overhead planes. ‘It’s the equivalent of those exciting first few steps of a baby.’ As it happens, Virgin’s eco-plane ran only one engine on the experimental fuel; the other three burned standard jet fuel. And the biofuel-powered engine was using a blend of conventional jet fuel and biofuel: 80/20 in favor of the regular stuff. In total, then, just 5% of the 49,000-lb (22,000 kg) fuel load consisted of the novelty: a special mix of coconut oil and oil from the Brazilian babassu plant, prepared by Seattle-based Imperium Renewables over the last 18 months and tested by General Electric Aviation in Ohio.’

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