Continental fixes date for biofuel 737 trial flight

Washington DC
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Continental Airlines is to use an algae and jatropha biofuel blend on a Boeing 737-800 demonstration flight on 7 January in Houston.

During Continental's trial - the first by a US carrier - the right-hand CFM International CFM56-7B engine will be powered by a blend of 50% jet fuel and 50% biofuel from algae and jatropha.

The flight will assess acceleration and deceleration, in-flight engine shut-down and restart, and other manoeuvres that include normal and non-normal procedures.

Using an experimental aircraft type certificate, Continental will record various flight parameters during the flight and conduct a post-flight engine analysis.

The carrier expects to show the biofuel blend can be substituted for Jet-A without degradation of performance or safety, and with a net reduction in carbon emissions.

Continental is partnering with Boeing, CFM International, Honeywell subsidiary and refining technology developer UOP and oil providers Sapphire Energy for algae and Terrasol for jatropha.

Laboratory and ground-based jet engine performance testing has been conducted.

Air New Zealand has postponed until 2009 a biofuel flight originally set for 3 December. The carrier plans to operate a 747-400 with a Rolls-Royce RB211 engine powered in part by fuel that is 50% Jet-A and 50% synthetic paraffinic kerosene derived from jatropha.

Virgin Atlantic conducted an alternative fuels flight with a General Electric CF6-powered 747-400 using a 20% mix of biofuel composed of babassu oil and coconut oil on 24 February. Virgin planned to operate an algae-powered flight within 12 months of its original trial.