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Continental to conduct biofuels flight demo

SYNTHETIC FUELS Continental Airlines plans to make a biofuels demonstration flight in the first half of 2009 using a next-generation Boeing 737 with CFM International CFM56-7B engines. Continental says it will work with an undisclosed fuel provider to identify sustainable fuel sources that don't impact food crops, water resources or contribute to deforestation. Separately, airlines and the US Air Force are negotiating prices for a biomass-derived jet fuel scheduled to enter production in California beginning in 2011. The fuel will be supplied by Solana, a Washington DC-based bio-energy specialist that initially plans to convert northern and central California's waste into 1,800 barrels a day of liquid fuel for military and commercial aircraft.

Suborbital programme puts humans in loop

SPACE SCIENCE NASA is looking for suborbital flight providers to support a pilot programme it wants to operate from 2010 to 2011. A Human-In-The-Loop Suborbital Science programme would include human-tended experiments in the areas of astrophysics, Earth science, heliophysics, and planetary science. One likely respondent to NASA's request for information is Virgin Galactic, which expects to begin its commercial suborbital flights in 2010. President Will Whitehorn says: "We could offer them a wet-lease scheme."

Rising sales boost Embraer 2007 profits

REGIONAL AIRCRAFT Soaring revenue underpinned strong growth in earnings at Embraer, where 2007 net profit increased 25%, to $490 million on net revenue up 40% to $5.24 billion operating income rose by one third to $456 million. The Brazilian regional aircraft maker attributed the result to a record 169 jet aircraft deliveries and a firm order backlog which rose to a record high $18.8 billion on 31 December. Embraer expects to deliver between 195 and 200 aircraft in 2008, along with 10-15 Phenom 100 very light jets.

787 a priority at component maker Vought

SUPPLY CHAIN Vought, the US airframe components maker which is a key supplier to Boeing's 787, turned a $36.7 million net loss in 2006 into a $46.3 million profit last year revenue was up 5% to $1.63 billion. Chief executive Elmer Doty says: "Vought's priority remains the successful execution of the 787 programme. We have made great progress in overcoming initial supply-chain challenges, resulting in a significant improvement in the number of parts installed since delivery of the first aft fuselage last May." He adds that current cash flows from operations and amounts available under revolving credit facilities would meet the needs of Vought's 787 contracts for at least the next twelve months, but he expects to need additional funding from Boeing or other third-party sources to participate in future 787derivatives.

FAA predicts slower US domestic growth

AIRLINES Following plans by many US carriers to shrink capacity, the US FAA predicts slower overall growth this year than in previous years, with commercial revenue passenger miles to increase just 0.6%, a drop from last year's 3.9% growth. Growth in passenger numbers are also expected to slow, increasing only 1% in 2008, compared with 3.3% growth in 2007. In the long run, the FAA expects US commercial aviation to carry one billion passengers by 2016, with international growth outpacing domestic growth, as well as increasing yields. The FAA anticipates network carriers will be more disciplined about capacity and that low-cost carriers will slow capacity growth.