Airline flies a 747 on fuel from a plant
AUCKLAND, Jan 1 — Air New Zealand tested a jet fuel made from the jatropha plant as the airline searches for an affordable and environmentally friendly alternative to crude oil.
Unlike other biofuel crops like soybeans and corn, jatropha needs little water or fertiliser and can be grown almost anywhere — even in sandy, saline or otherwise infertile soil. Each seed produces 30 to 40 per cent of its mass in oil, giving it a high per-acre yield, specialists said.
In February, Virgin Atlantic became the first airline to test a biofuel blend in a commercial aircraft, using a 20 per cent mixture of coconut oil and babassu nut oil in one of its four engines.
Two more airlines are to test their alternatives next month. Continental Airlines will conduct a test flight on Jan 7 using a blend that includes algae and jatropha, the first biofuel test flight of a commercial airliner owned by an American company.
And Japan Airlines is planning a test flight on Jan 30 using a fuel based on the camelina oilseed.