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Air New Zealand conducts 747-400 biofuel test flight

ATW Daily News by Aaron Karp 6 Jan.09

Tuesday January 6, 2009
Air New Zealand operated a 2-hr. 747-400 biofuel test flight from Auckland on Dec. 29 using a 50/50 blend of jatropha-based fuel and standard jet fuel to power one of the aircraft's Rolls-Royce RB211s.

The flight was conducted in conjunction with Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell (ATWOnline, Nov. 12, 2008). "Today we stand at the earliest stages of sustainable fuel development and an important moment in aviation history," ANZ CEO Rob Fyfe said, adding that the flight was the "first to prove the viability of a second-generation biofuel such as jatropha."

Chief Pilot David Morgan, who was onboard the aircraft, said the flight crew conducted "a wide variety of tests under normal and nonnormal operating conditions, designed to test the biofuel to the fullest extent." For example, when the aircraft reached an altitude of 20,000-25,000 ft., the main fuel pump for the engine partially powered by the biofuel was switched off to test the lubricity of the fuel, ensuring its friction did not slow down flow. The jatropha-derived fuel was supplied by Terasol Energy.

Continental Airlines plans to operate a 737-800 test flight this week using a fuel blend including components derived from algae and jatropha (ATWOnline, Dec. 9, 2008).

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