30 Dec 2008

Biofuelled flight judged a success

9:43 pm on 30 December 2008

Air New Zealand has proved the viability of using a biofuel blend to power a commercial aircraft.

On Tuesday, the company carried out the world's first test flight with one of the four Boeing 747-400's engines powered by the sustainable jatropha biofuel.

The plane took off from Auckland International Airport and flew over Hauraki Gulf, observed by representatives from Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell.

More than a dozen performance tests were carried out at various altitudes during the two-hour flight, to measure the fuel's productivity.

The chief pilot, Captain David Morgan, says the flight was a huge success and the biofuel blend was indistinguishable from that of normal Jet A1 fuel. He says the flight was a major milestone for the aviation industry.

The fuel came from the oil of jatropha seeds grown in Africa and India.

The test was planned to take place earlier, but was delayed because of the crash of an Air New Zealand Airbus A320 in Perpignan on 27 November.