Air New Zealand to make first commercial flights powered by Jatropha based fuel

November 12th, 2008 - 8:39 am ICT by IANS  

Wellington, Nov 12 (DPA) Air New Zealand will make the world’s first commercial aviation test flight powered by fuel created from the seeds of the African jatropha plant next month, the airline announced Wednesday.Rolls Royce had certified the sustainable second-generation biofuel as suitable for use in the airline’s Boeing 747-400 jumbo jets, a statement said.

Air New Zealand’s chief pilot, Captain David Morgan, said the two- hour test flight on Dec 3 will use a 50-50 blend of standard jet fuel and synthetic paraffinic kerosene derived from jatropha oil in one of the plane’s engines.

The two-hour test flight is scheduled to take off around 0900 on Dec 3 using the jatropha blend fuel to power one of Air New Zealand’s Boeing 747-400’s Rolls-Royce RB211 engines.

“Laboratory testing showed the final blend has excellent properties meeting, and in many cases exceeding, the stringent technical requirements for fuels used in civil and defence aircraft,” Chris Lewis, a Rolls Royce fuels specialist, said in the statement.

He said the blended fuel would be virtually indistinguishable from the conventional jet fuel used in commercial aviation.

Air New Zealand said the test flight was a joint initiative between the airline, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and UOP, a Honeywell company, as part of commercial aviation’s drive for more sustainable air travel for future generations.

The jatropha oil refined for the test flight comes from seeds grown on environmentally sustainable farms in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and India.

The jatropha plant, which grows to about 3-meters, produces seeds that contain inedible lipid oil used to produce fuel. The airline says it can be grown in a range of difficult conditions, including arid and otherwise non-arable areas, so it does not compete with land for food crops.

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