Air New Zealand is a step closer to its bio-fuel test flight using a 747-400 aircraft, with the refining of the sustainable fuel underway in the US.
Air New Zealand General Manager Airline Operations Captain David Morgan says the refined fuel, which is sourced from the jatropha curcas plant, will then be sent to engine manufacturer Rolls Royce for testing and approvals.
"We are on track to meet our goal of operating the world's first test flight on a large passenger aircraft using fuel sourced from jatropha in the last quarter of this year," Captain Morgan said.
"Once testing is complete we will be able to identify a date for the test flight, which will operate subject to regulatory approvals from the Civil Aviation Authority."
In the test flight, which will depart from and return to Auckland Airport, one of the Boeing 747 aircraft's four Rolls Royce engines will be powered by a mix of jatropha and Jet A1.
The fuel that is being refined for the test flight comes from South East Africa and India and has been sourced from seeds grown on environmentally sustainable plantations. Jatropha is a plant that grows to approximately three metres high, has high water efficiency, and produces seed that contain inedible lipid oil that is used to produce fuel. Each seed produces between 30 and 40 percent of its mass in oil. Jatropha can be grown in a range of difficult conditions, including arid and non-arable areas.
Captain Morgan says the bio fuel test flight is an important milestone in Air New Zealand's journey towards becoming the world's most environmentally sustainable airline.
By 2013, Air New Zealand expects to use at least one million barrels of environmentally sustainable fuel annually, meeting at least 10% of its total annual needs.
Next month Air New Zealand and key aviation partners will also demonstrate the potential for the commercial aviation industry to reduce emissions by millions of tonnes annually, with a test flight between Auckland and San Francisco. The commercial Boeing 777 flight - NZ8, renamed Aspire 1 will operate under optimum flight planning conditions through the involvement of partners Airways New Zealand, The Federal Aviation Administration and Air Services Australia.
"We have been a world-leader in examining every aspect of our flight operations to reduce carbon emissions by reducing fuel. From August 2004 until March 2008 we reduced our carbon dioxide emissions by 90,963 tonnes," Captain Morgan says.
"We are now using 36 million litres less fuel on an annual basis compared to when we started this programme, and this is delivering a saving of approximately $43 million each year."
Air New Zealand has a range of green initiatives underway throughout its business. These include more efficient flight planning and tracking, continuous descent profiles, more effective use of engine power in all phases of flight and greater use of electric power when aircraft are parked at the airport.
Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs, contact 09 336 2761
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