Lufthansa plans first commercial transatlantic biofuel flight

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Lufthansa will this week operate the first commercial transatlantic flight to be powered partly by biofuel, after deeming its recent six-month trial of alternative fuel-powered services between Frankfurt and Hamburg a success.

The German carrier on 12 January plans to operate a Boeing 747-400 flight between Frankfurt and Washington DC, with two of its four engines running on a 50:50 blend of biofuel and traditional kerosene.

A Lufthansa spokesman said the Washington flight will run on the same type of fuel that the carrier used in its recent biofuel trial. Lufthansa became the first airline to operate regular commercial biofuel flights when it launched a six-month domestic trial on 15 July.

The carrier used an Airbus A321 with one of its International Aero Engines V2500 burning a 50:50 blend of ordinary kerosene and synthetic fuel derived from jatropha, camelina and animal fat to fly four rotations a day on its normal Frankfurt-Hamburg scheduled route.

During the trial, which ended on 27 December, Lufthansa operated a total of 1,187 biofuel flights, consuming a total of 1,556t of synthetic fuel mix. The carrier estimates that its carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 1,471t during the trial.

The spokesman said that the airline stopped the six-month trial "a couple of flights early" so that it could use "the last tonnes" of biofuel to conduct the transatlantic flight.

"As a next step, we will focus on the suitability, availability, sustainability and certification of raw materials. But first we must tap into this market," said Lufthansa vice-president aviation biofuel Joachim Buse.

"However, Lufthansa will only continue the practical trial if we are able to secure the volume of sustainable, certified raw materials required in order to maintain routine operations."