Monday, February 25, 2008

Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet is first airliner to fly partially on biofuel

Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet is first airliner to fly partially on biofuel

By Juliana LazarusPages Editor GULF NEWS Published: February 24, 2008, 23:07

London: Sir Richard Branson was one happy man yesterday when Virgin Atlantic became the first airline in the world to fly a commercial aircraft on biofuel.

The passengerless Boeing 747 jumbo jet made the journey from London to Amsterdam with one of its engines powered partially by biofuel made from babassu nuts and coconut oil, ingredients that are commonly found in products like shaving cream and lip balm.

The ratio of the blend was 20 per cent biofuel and 80 per cent standard fuel, Sir Richard said at Heathrow Airport before the launch, the result of a venture between Boeing, GE Aviation and Imperium Renewables.

"There were several reasons why Virgin chose babassu nuts and coconut oil over other energy sources," Branson said.

First, unlike ethanol it did not freeze at altitudes above 30,000 feet. Second, both fuel sources did not compete with staple food crops and did not mean deforestation - they were in fact harvested from existing plantations. Third, there was no need to modify either the aircraft or the engines for the flight.

Sir Richard conceded that the biofuel was still several years away from certification, but he was confident that when that happened, it would not only mean smaller carbon footprints in the aviation industry but also cheaper airfares.

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