Flight powered by fish and chips

Why does it please me that the used oil in the deep fat fryer from which my fish and chips has just been retrieved will power a Finnair Airbus A319?

Or maybe, eventually, any number of flights with other aeroplanes and airlines. 

Lufty Pure Sky.jpgThis is a Lufthansa Airbus A321 having its right wing tank filled with a 50/50 mix of ordinary jet fuel and biofuel derived from sustainable sources of jatropha, camelina and waste animal fat. 

I wonder what line environmentally conscious vegetarians would take on that? 

That may not sound very appealing but, according to Lufthansa communications man Aage Duenhaupt, the source material all ends up, once refined, as the same long chemical string of Cs, Hs and Os that all aeroplane engines love. Aage reckons that a chemist trying to analyse its origin(s) would probably not be able to do so.

Aviation’s doing a lot to become more environmentally friendly, but its efforts don’t get much air time. It’s not a sufficiently sexy subject for the media.

Luthansa’s current claim to biofuel fame is that it is running this airframe (the one pictured) on four scheduled commercial rotations a day on its Frankfurt-Hamburg route for six months, during which everything about the operation will be monitored.

On 15 July I was in this same aircraft as a passenger on the inaugural bio-flight from Hamburg to Frankfurt, right cheek pressed against the window watching the No 2 engine as it powered up for take-off.

What was I expecting to see? The engine coughing, spluttering and giving up the ghost? It would have made a good story, but no such journalistic luck.

I mentioned Finnair and fish and chips: on 20 July it ran its first biofuel powered flight, with both the A319′s engines running on a 50/50 mix of kerosine and biofuel derived from used vegetable oil from the catering industry. If vegetarians would shy from Lufthansa’s mix, maybe they’d be happy with this one (but what if it came from KFC?)

Holiday charter specialist Thomson Airways was going to start commercial biofuel flights tomorrow (28 July), but has postponed them until September. Communications Director, Christian Cull explains: “A delay during the transportation of the sustainable biofuel from source in the USA, into the UK, has meant that we were unable to conduct our testing process in time for the first scheduled customer flight.” Thomson’s fuel, too, is to be derived from used cooking oils.

Meanwhile no airline needs to be persuaded that expensive conventional fuel use needs to be cut.

The Vinga project is based at Gothenburg airport, Sweden, and it is a cooperation between the airport, the Swedish aviation authority, Airbus, and Novair (whose A320s on commercial flights will be involved), and it has one sole purpose: to try every trick in the book to reduce fuel usage on flights, and noise nuisance to people on the ground.   

 

Cockpit in the air2 - interview Photo Sören Andersson.jpgThis (above) is a television crew on a demo flight hoping to introduce the Vinga project to the world, interviewing the captain.

 

And here (below) we are landing at the end of the demo, which involved the use of exacting disciplines in fuel economy from take off to final approach.

 

Cockpit landing 2 Photo Sören Andersson www.2see.se.jpgThe trouble with all this is that the passengers won’t notice any changes.

 

Like me looking for the engine to get indigestion on the Lufthansa flight, or fruitlessly sniffing the air around the Finnair A319 for the flavour of fish and chips, or trying to deduce a difference in the Vinga flight path, no passenger will know there is a difference.

 

 

 

 

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