This Monday, Air Canada became the latest in a lengthening list of airlines – including Lufthansa and KLM – that have experimented with running their airliners on biofuels during regular passenger flights. In this case, the aircraft in question was an Airbus A319, traveling from Toronto to Mexico City. It was tanked up with a 50/50 mix of regular aviation fuel and biofuel made from recycled cooking oil.
The biofuel was produced by Dutch firm SkyNRG. Because the fuel was made to jet fuel standards, it could be safely used in the A319 without requiring any changes to the aircraft’s systems. Although Air Canada hasn’t yet posted any data on how the plane performed, it was expected to generate at least 40 percent less emissions than would otherwise have been the case.
Along with the use of biofuel, the airline took a number of other measures to maximize the aircraft’s efficiency on the test flight. Some of these included a preflight fuselage wash and wax to improve aerodynamics, an engine compressor wash, runway taxiing using only one engine, minimized use of the on-board Auxiliary Power Unit by relying on ground-supplied power at the airport gates, and reduced thrust on take-off.
In order to save weight, the airline even went so far as to install lightweight aisle carpet, and equip the pilots with iPads instead of their usual stacks of paper flight documents.
The experiment was conducted with support from Airbus, as part of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Flightpath to a Sustainable Future initiative. It was timed to coincide with the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
Future biofuel flights from Canada to Rio de Janeiro are now being planned.