Boeing, Virgin Atlantic and GE Aviation conducted the first commercial aviation flight using a sustainable biofuel mixed with traditional kerosene-based jet fuel on February 24, 2008. The biofuel flight demonstration highlighted the technical feasibility of using biofuels in a commercial jetliner and was a significant step toward a long-term vision of fully sustainable, low-carbon-lifecycle fuel solutions for the aviation industry.
The Virgin Atlantic 747-400 flew using a biofuel blend composed of babassu oil and coconut oil provided by Seattle-based Imperium Renewables. These oils are economically and socially sustainable and can be found in everyday cosmetic products including lip balm and shaving cream. In addition, the babassu nuts and coconuts were harvested from existing, mature plantations. No modifications were made to either the aircraft or its engines to enable the flight to take place.
"Today marks a biofuel breakthrough for the whole airline industry," said Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic. "Virgin Atlantic and its partners have proved that you can find an alternative to traditional jet fuel and fly a plane on 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."
The results of the biofuel flight will be analyzed by the collective team and used for research and development of next-generation biofuels that can help to further reduce carbon emissions. Boeing will use findings from this flight as a baseline for conducting another biofuel flight later this year with Air New Zealand.