Lufthansa plans to become the first airline to operate commercial passenger flights using an aircraft powered by a 50/50 biofuel blend derived from vegetable oil when it begins a six-month trial period in April.

The German carrier will operate an International Aero Engine-powered Airbus A321 using a biofuel blend made from 50% hydrotreated vegetable oil and 50% kerosene on a daily service between Frankfurt and Hamburg.

The flights will begin in April and will continue for six months as part of a project aimed at studying the impact of biofuels on aircraft performance. Airbus will provide technical assistance.

Finland's Neste Oil will provide the biofuel under a long-term agreement it has signed with Lufthansa. The carrier says the fuel, which when burned emits the carbon dioxide it absorbed when it was growing, is produced from a sustainable feedstock.

"We see great opportunities in the use of biosynthetic kerosene. But we are first gathering experience with it in daily practice," says Lufthansa chief executive Wolfgang Mayrhuber.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news