Airlines have high hopes for a new range of biofuels
By Dominic O’Connell, Times UK
At Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport last Monday a gaggle of aviation executives, politicians and journalists trooped aboard a KLM jumbo jet for a flight to nowhere.
The trip was uneventful — the plane and its 40 occupants circled above Holland for a couple of hours before landing where it took off. However, in a small way, it was historic. It was the first flight by a biofuel-powered airliner to carry passengers.
In fact, the plane was only partly powered by biofuel. One of its four engines ran on a 50:50 blend of biofuel and normal aviation fuel. The biofuel was made from camelina, an inedible green shrub.
Despite the limited experiments to date — Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand and a clutch of other carriers have run test flights without passengers — airline executives are thrilled with biofuels.
Their industry is a target for politicians and environmentalists in the crusade against carbon dioxide emissions and the prospect of a fuel that will allow the industry to grow while reducing its emissions is enticing. “In the decades ahead, the airline industry will be largely dependent on the availability of alternative fuels in its drive to lower emissions,” said Jan Ernst de Groot, KLM’s managing director.