After postponing the flight for about a month, Air New Zealand has become the first airline to test a 50/50 blend of second generation jatropha biodiesel and standard A1 jet fuel in a Boeing 747-400 passenger jet. The company has hailed the test as a milestone for commercial aviation.
The flight lasted two hours and ran one of the plane’s Rolls-Royce engines on the jatropha biodiesel blend. Air New Zealand has previously stated that they want to become the world’s most sustainable airline and hopes that by 2013, 10% of its flights will be powered by biofuel blends such as the jatropha biodiesel blend used in this test flight.
Air New Zealand said the the jatropha used to make the fuel came from South Eastern Africa (Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania) and India. They also claim that the oil was produced from Jatropha seeds grown on “environmentally sustainable farms.”
As a second generation biofuel, jatropha is grown on land that doesn’t compete with food. Jatropha requires almost no care and very little water. Another major benefit of jatropha is that, due to its ability to take hold in harsh wastelands, it can be used to help stop erosion in these areas and reclaim them for agricultural production.
Although the test flight was a success, there are still many barriers to commercial distribution of a jatropha blend jet fuel. Air New Zealand says that it will be at least 4 years before they can get access to enough jatropha to make the fuel needed to run 10% of their flights.
Image Credit: Air New Zealand