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"It really isn't smelly!"
That's the assertion given by KLM to press and passengers on Friday, as the first-ever series of biofuel-powered intercontinental flights was inaugurated.
All is normal inside the aircraft, and indeed passengers may have no idea they are flying on a history-making jet, unless they see the proud "we fly on biofuels" statement painted on the side. Outside, two fueling trucks pump the plane's tanks full of a mix of regular kerosene and biofuel manufactured from used cooking oil. According to the AP, the process to make this magic fuel goes a little something like this: "the waste oil from frying up crawfish, cracklins and other Cajun specialties is refined at a Louisiana plant, then trucked to JFK." Sounds simple, huh?
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Earlier this week, we talked about Porter Airline's using alternative fuel to actually fly some passengers around. Well there's some more very exciting news for Mother Earth and the impact of all of these planes criss-crossing the globe. The Aussies down under at Qantas can now add themselves to the growing list of airlines either experimenting with or using a type of biofuel on scheduled passenger service.
The Flying Kangaroo has announced that, starting next week, flights between Sydney and Adelaide will have a smaller carbon footprint. The fuel, a blend of cooking oils, is the same stuff that filled the tanks of Lufthansa's biofuel aircraft. Test flights will be making history in Australia with an Airbus A330.
It might be a little too early to send out the Earth Day greeting cards, but don’t tell that to Porter Airlines. The Canadian carrier known for awesome service on the ground and in the air is bringing another new feature to their flights, and this time it’s kind of something just for the earth.
To celebrate Earth Day—and just to generally be seen as the good guys—Porter Airlines is readying its very first biofuel flight. Last month the airline sent one of their Bombardier Q400 turboprop airliners up into the skies for a test flight, and it sounds like things went well with the green gas. That means it’s now time to test things out on an official commercial flight. If all goes according to plan it’ll do its thing right around the middle of April.
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Huge news. Yesterday marked the first time a US airline used biofuel in a commercial flight. No, it wasn't Alaska Airlines even though they are trying; it was United, and they flew their eco-friendly 737-800 from Continental's's former home base, Houston, to the United home base of Chicago.
For the #avgeeks: The biofuel is algae-based and includes 60 percent petroleum fuel and 40 percent biofuel produced by a company named Solazyme.
The eco-consciousness isn't limited to what goes in the tank, either. United flight attendants now push lighter serving carts and pilots traded in their 38-pound flight bags for more weight-conscious iPads (already loaded with their in-flight navigation charts and aircraft manuals). Furthermore, United makes it easy for plane spotters to identify the Mother Earth-friendly aircraft by its green winglets and 'eco-skies' written towards the front of the fuselage.
It’s all smiles over at Thomson Airways, as the carrier just launched one of the first renewable fuel flights in the United Kingdom. Things were originally scheduled to do their thing over the summer, but after some extra tests and a few delays, the plane just recently took to the skies.
The flight wasn’t too far or fancy—just Birmingham to Arrecife in the Canary Islands—but it’s still something to talk about. There was some jet fuel involved with the flight of the Boeing 757, as this test flight was more of a mix of the usual stuff along with some they’re calling waste fat—gross. We weren’t on hand to witness the take-off or landing, so we’re curious if the emissions smelled a little bit like french fries.
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Branson and Al Gore at a past eco-event in 2007
Virgin CEO Richard Branson has had a busy day. Earlier in London, he gathered Virgin employees together at Battersea Power Station to announce that a new low-carbon fuel was being developed for use in powering Virgin Atlantic planes. It'd be "just half the carbon footprint of the standard fossil fuel alternative" and hopefully pushing planes through the sky from Shanghai and Delhi to London as soon as 2014.
It's kind of a big deal, and it means that Branson has given up on his earlier idea of creating jet fuel from coconut oil. This new stuff will be made from "waste gases from industrial steel production being captured, fermented and chemically converted using Swedish Biofuels technology." Intense! It's not just throwing garbage into the flux capacitor!
Alas, Virgin Atlantic isn't anywhere near alone on the Biofuels technology front...
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Stop the presses. Wasn't it supposed to be KLM that would be the first major airline to use biofuels on a regular basis? Ah well, the Germans are about to pass them by in the eco-race as Lufthansa continues to move forward with their biofuel testing, and they’re looking to start up regular flights pretty darn soon.
If all goes according to plan, next Friday will be the first day that biofuel flights become a regular thing, as Lufthansa flight 013 will take off from Hamburg to Frankfurt with half biofuel and half jet fuel. The airline plans to use the fancy new green airplane gas on eight daily flights between the two cities for the next six months, and it hopes to save upwards of like 1,500 tons of CO2 emissions by doing so.
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Plenty of airlines have tried their hand at biofuels with types of tests and tries, but nobody has really stepped up to the plate and attempted to use them on a daily basis. That might be about to change as KLM is driving around the Netherlands busily collecting used cooking oil, as their plan includes using a sort of biofuel on some if its flights before the end of the year.
In September the airline will launch recycled biofuel flights between Amsterdam and Paris, and in total there will be about 200 flights that will be using the new green gas. Dynamic Fuels is behind the production of the new special sauce for the tank, and existing airplanes and engines don't need any sort of modifications or updates in order to do their thing.
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It seems like every couple of months another airline goes on and on about how they’re going green through their use of biofuels. Apparently Lufthansa is sick of all the one-off tests, so they’re actually going to start using some new fuels regularly on their flights beginning next year.
One of the first routes will be one from Hamburg to Frankfurta quickiewhere an Airbus A321 aircraft will be getting a special dose of kerosene derived from some kind of plant oil blend. Things will start up in April and will continue until they get the recipe just right. Eventually Lufthansa wants to get green gas in all of their planes, but even by 2020 it still will probably only be like five to ten percent of all the fuel in the gas tank.
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We've covered the ongoing development of solar-powered airplanes, which look almost space-age as they fly silently through the sky. But if sustainable aviation fuel is going to come from anywhere in the near future, it won't be from solar but from biofuel. Continental ran a biofuel-powered test flight last January out of Houston and flew around the Gulf of Mexico, and now Alaska Airlines is investigating whether biofuels can be used more broadly. The airline is teaming up with Boeing and Washington State University to run a pilot biofuel program across three Northwest airports.
PDX, SeaTac, and Spokane will see whether they can become part of their own little biofuel sub-industry, where nearby algae, agriculture, and wood byproducts are converted into something that can keep airplanes in the air. The details are a little sketchy but the idealocal, non-fossil fuel materialsseems pretty straightforward.
British Airways has been in the news quite a bit lately, but not for anything positive. There were those racy flight attendant pictures, and then most recently that whole prostitution ring thing got our attention. Some might think that this news makes the airline look a little trashy, but it’s their new fuel strategy that is coming from the garbage—ha!
Beginning in 2014, the airline will partner with Solena to bring some biofuel to their fleet of jets. Solena is set to open a plant in London, and once it’s complete, British Airways is expected to buy as much garbage gas as they can. They’re claiming that 16 million gallons of this fancy fuel will be produced at the plant. Sounds good to us, but 2014 is a few years away and numerous delays wouldn’t be too surprising.
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It’s been almost two years since Richard Branson first praised the benefits of coconuts as a possible alternative to fly his planes around the globe. Since then, there have been many different biofuel blends and several successful test flights. Companies are certainly trying their best to become the ExxonMobil of green fuel, and the marketing departments behind camelina and jatropha are trying to illustrate while their oily plants are the best. One company, AltAir Fuels, is having a little bit of success with it all, and they plan to partner with about 15 airlines to provide some green juice.
Airlines like Air Canada, Delta, JetBlue, and US Airways have all agreed to think about purchasing up to 750 million gallons of eco-friendly jet fuel from AltAir Fuels. Their magic ingredient of choice is camelina—sorry jatropha fans. The green travel juice will be made in Washington, and the company is hoping that 100 million gallons of fuel will be made each year, starting in 2012.