Qatar Airways aims to fuel all flights from its Doha hub with a 50% blend of gas-to-liquid (GTL) kerosene from 2012, following its successful first GTL revenue flight between London and Qatar today.
The 6h flight from Gatwick operated by an Airbus A340-600 was the first commercial service powered by GTL fuel and the first time that GTL has been used to power all engines. Airbus operated an A380 GTL demonstration flight in February last year between Bristol and Toulouse, but only one of the four Rolls-Royce Trent engines was GTL-fuelled.
Speaking to Flightglobal on board the historic flight, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said that the demonstration signalled an important milestone in the airline's environmental drive. "This flight is the first step in making alternative fuel available to airlines."
The fuel for the test flight was supplied by Shell's GTL plant in Bintulu, Malaysia. Shell and partner Qatar Petroleum are building a huge GTL plant which is due to begin production at the end of next year and will ramp up GTL kerosene output to one million tonnes a year in 2012.
"When it is available at Doha airport, all Qatar Airways flight will operate with a mix of GTL," says Al Baker.
Shell Aviation general manager operations/technical & supply Gary Woodward says that the flight marks an important milestone in the development of aviation fuel: "The availability of a new fuel in our industry is very rare."
"In the long term demand for fuel is going to outstrip supply so for airlines the availability of GTL adds to the fuel pool as supply get gets tight," he adds. "We need new fuels to bring a diversity of supply options."
On board the commercial demonstration flight were a total of 240 passengers including VIP guests, a small group of media which included Flightglobal and fare-paying passengers. The latter were advised in advance about the nature of the flight.
Qatar Airways announced the GTL project at the Dubai air show in November 2007. It is partnered with Shell, Qatar Petroleum, Airbus, R-R, Qatar Science & Technology Park and Qatari fuel supplier Woqod.