The remarkable result is one of the key findings from the Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400 Rolls-Royce powered test flight in December last year.

Air New Zealand General Manager Airline Operations and Chief Pilot Captain David Morgan, announced the scientific findings from the test flight today at the Eco-Aviation Conference in Washington.

The test flight, a joint initiative between Air New Zealand, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell's UOP, was carried out on 30 December as part of commercial aviation's drive for more sustainable air travel for future generations and used the highest blend of any type of biofuel in a test flight.

The biofuel test programme included extensive on-the-ground and inflight tests of the engine and aircraft components. During the comprehensive flight test, analysis was carried out at various altitudes and under a variety of operating conditions to measure the biofuel's performance through the engine and fuel systems.

A report prepared by Air New Zealand, Boeing and Rolls-Royce to analyse the data collected throughout the flight says the biofuel selected has demonstrated the potential for use as a drop in replacement to Jet A1 at a blend ratio of up to 50:50. This material now needs to be submitted to the rigorous industry evaluation and approval protocol to enable it to be certified for everyday use.

The report also found that the biofuel's properties offer some performance improvements over Jet A1 due to its higher net heat of combustion including:

  • Using this biofuel blend, the fuel burn for a Boeing 747-400 aircraft twelve-hour flight (5800 nautical miles) would improve by 1.2%, saving 1.43 tonnes of fuel.
  • Such a reduction in fuel burn would result in a significant reduction in carbon emissions, saving approximately 4.5 tonnes of CO2.
  • At shorter ranges, fuel burn will improve by 1% when using a mix of 50% biofuel to 50% Jet A1. Overall savings due to these hydrotreated bio-derived jet fuels from naturally occurring oils is estimated to be a 60-65% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to petroleum-derived jet fuel.

The report says the test flight has demonstrated that more sustainable air travel can be achieved by refiners, airframe manufacturers, engine makers and airlines working together. It should also give those drafting fuel certification regulations more confidence to push ahead and reduce the timeline for certification of a bio-derived drop-in jet fuel to occur.

Data from this evaluation flight program will be published to various industry bodies to contribute to the current program evaluating this and similar fuel products with a view to achieving approval of them as alternatives to existing Jet A1.

Captain Morgan said the scientific findings were significant for the aviation industry, which stands at the earliest stages of sustainable fuel development.

"Certainly the data from our biofuel test flight will be a critical component towards helping biofuel become a certified aviation fuel," he says.

Captain Morgan said it was Air New Zealand's goal to become the world's most environmentally sustainable airline, and that it was proud to have played an important role in furthering the industry's body of knowledge on sustainable alternative biofuels.

"There is a great deal to be done by the industry as a whole and Air New Zealand will continue to lend its support.

"We currently have a team looking at several different biofuel options. We remain committed to our ambition of having 10% of our fuel needs by 2013 met by alternative fuels, but appreciate there are many more steps to be taken by experts in other areas to deliver biofuel as a commercial aviation fuel source," he says.

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Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs ph +64 9 336 2761

NOTE: The content of all Air New Zealand media releases are accurate at the time of issue, as stated at the top of each release. For updates on any changes, please contact Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand is proud to be a member of Star Alliance. The Star Alliance network was established in 1997 as the first truly global airline alliance to offer worldwide reach, recognition and seamless service to the international traveller. Its acceptance by the market has been recognised by numerous awards, including the Air Transport World Market Leadership Award, Best Airline Alliance by both Business Traveller Magazine and Skytrax. The member airlines are: Adria Airways, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Blue1, bmi, Continental Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, THAI, United and US Airways. Aegean Airlines, Air India, Brussels Airlines and TAM have been announced as future members. Overall, the Star Alliance network offers 19,500 daily flights to 1,071 airports in 171 countries.

For more information about Air New Zealand visit www.airnewzealand.com and for more information about Star Alliance visit www.staralliance.com.