Qatar Airways has achieved a world first today by operating an Airbus A340-600 on a revenue flight powered by gas-to-liquid (GTL) kerosene.
The A340-600 took off on the synthetic fuel demonstration flight from London Gatwick, operating the airline's regular QR076 service to Doha with a full load of passengers.
It replaced the regular A330 on the 6hr flight, with all four of its Rolls-Royce Trent 500 engines powered by a 50:50 blend of GTL and Jet A1 kerosene.
On board the flight was Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker and a small group of media that included ATI. The remainder of the seats were occupied by fare-paying passengers who had been advised in advance about the nature of the flight.
The demonstration follows a two-year intensive study into synthetic fuel technology, which was announced at the Dubai Air Show in November 2007 by a team comprising Qatar Airways, Qatar Petroleum, Shell, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Qatar Science & Technology Park and Qatari fuel company Woqod.
The Gatwick-Doha flight is the second demonstration of the synthetic fuel. Last year Airbus operated an A380 on a 3hr flight between Bristol and Toulouse with one of its four Trent engines fuelled by a 40% blend of GTL kerosene provided by Shell.
Training and research has been undertaken within the Qatar Science & Technology Park. The country is set to be the market leader in the production of GTL, with Qatar Petroleum and Shell having created a multi-billion dollar integrated GTL 'Pearl' plant. When this comes fully on line by 2011 GTL will be available in large volumes.
Approval for the 50% blend was received in September, and the ultimate goal is to achieve approval for 100% blend of GTL with other synthetic fuels.
GTL provides environmental benefits as it is clean-burning - it produces fewer particulates, thereby reducing sulphur and nitrate emissions - and provides up to 5% higher energy density per unit weight. Qatar Airways ultimately aims to use the fuel for all its regular operations.