Continental Airlines partners with Boeing and GE for first US biofuel flight in 2009
Fri 14 Mar 2008 – Continental Airlines has announced plans to carry out a biofuel demonstration flight on a CFM56-powered Boeing Next-Generation 737 in the first half of 2009. The partners will work with an undisclosed fuel provider in the months leading up to the flight to identify the biofuel to be used.
This follows last month’s demonstration Virgin Atlantic GE CF6-powered Boeing 747-400 flight between London and Heathrow and a planned Air New Zealand 747 biofuel flight for later in the year in which Boeing is partnering with Rolls-Royce.
“Exploring sustainable biofuels is a logical and exciting new step in our environmental commitment. For more than a decade, we have been focused on reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions, while providing industry-leading service to the places our customers want to go,” said Mark Moran, Continental’s Executive Vice President of Operations. “Boeing and GE Aviation have been frontrunners in pioneering technology that will benefit the aviation industry, customers and the environment, and we are pleased to benefit from their expertise in this venture.”
The criteria for the type of biofuel to be used is that it “must come from second-generation sustainable sources that do not impact food crops, water resources or contribute to deforestation, and which can be produced in sufficient quantities to support a pre-flight test schedule that will include laboratory and ground-based jet engine performance testing to ensure compliance with stringent aviation fuel performance and safety requirements.” The partners will be keen to demonstrate another type of biofuel than that used on the Virgin flight – derived from the oil of babassu nuts and coconuts – and although algae is seen as a future ‘biojetfuel-of-choice’, other potential sources include jatropha, halophytes and switchgrass.
Whereas the Virgin flight had a 20/80 blend in one of its four engines, Continental suggests that on its flight the mix may be as high as 50/50 in one of the 737’s two engines.
Continental’s participation in the project, says the airline, is part of a company-wide commitment to environmental responsibility that has seen a 35% reduction in GHG emissions and fuel consumption per mainline revenue passenger mile flown over the past 10 years.