Virgin Atlantic has flown one of its Boeing 747 jumbo jets on biofuel from London Heathrow to Amsterdam. The aircraft flew using a biofuel composed of babassu oil and coconut oil, both found in everyday cosmetic products, such as lip balm and shaving cream. No modifications were made to either the aircraft or its engines to enable the flight to take place. You can see some video here.
“Today marks a biofuel breakthrough for the whole airline industry,” said Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic. “Virgin Atlantic, and its partners, are proving that you can find an alternative to traditional jet fuel and fly a plane on new technology, such as sustainable biofuel. This pioneering flight will enable those of us who are serious about reducing our carbon emissions to go on developing the fuels of the future, fuels which will power our aircraft in the years ahead through sustainable next-generation oils, such as algae.”
Boeing, GE Aviation and Imperium Renewables, worked with Virgin on the project.
For Boeing, the test marks a successful response to Airbus which, earlier this month, flew an A380 using a liquid fuel processed from gas in the first stage of a test flight program to evaluate the environmental impact of alternative fuels.
Environmental competition between the two manufacturers was stepped up in June, when Airbus announced it would reduce CO2 emissions from its planes by half between now and 2020 and appealed to Boeing to take take part in an industry conference on protecting the environment.
Meanwhile, environmentalists are calling Virgin’s inaugural flight a publicity stunt, The Press Association reports, saying that biofuel crops are raising food costs in developing countries, damaging the environment and displacing indigenous local populations.
“This is a company hell-bent on unrestrained airport expansion, starting with a third runway at Heathrow which would almost double the number of flights from one of the world’s biggest airports,” said Greenpeace chief scientist, Dr Doug Parr. “Biofuels can often cause more damage to the environment than fossil fuels, and Virgin is using this flight to divert attention from an irresponsible, business as usual attitude to climate change.”