Biofuel Airbus A320 completes first successful test flight


November 30, 2010

TAM Airlines, working together with Airbus, has successfully conducted the first Jatropha-based biofuel flight in Latin America

TAM Airlines, working together with Airbus, has successfully conducted the first Jatropha-based biofuel flight in Latin America

With the aviation industry recently announcing self-imposed CO2 reduction targets, the search is on for more environmentally friendly fuels for use in passenger aircraft. A number of aircraft manufacturers and airlines have been looking at alternative fuels, such as GTL and biofuel and now Brazil’s largest airline, TAM Airlines, working together with Airbus, has successfully conducted the first Jatropha-based biofuel flight in Latin America. Airbus claims the biofuel could help reduce the aviation sector’s overall carbon footprint by up to 80 percent.

Following last year’s Aviation & Environment Summit, the aviation industry committed to self-imposed CO2 reduction targets of neutral growth from 2020, working towards a 50 percent net CO2 reduction on 2005 emissions by 2050. Although the energy use – and, as a result, greenhouse gas emissions – of the aviation sector (9 percent of the transportation sector in 2007*) is far overshadowed by the energy use of passenger vehicles, such as cars and light-duty trucks (60.4 percent*), such a reduction would have a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

The biofuel used to power the TAM Airlines A320 was a 50 percent blend of conventional aviation kerosene and locally-sourced Brazilian Jatropha-based bio-kerosene. Jatropha is seen as one of the best candidates for biofuel production as it is drought and pest resistant and produces seeds containing 27–40 percent oil, averaging 34.4 percent. As it contains several toxic compounds, it also avoids the controversy surrounding the use of traditional food crops for the production of biofuel.

The A320, powered by CFM56 engines, took off from Galeão Antonio Carlos Jobim International airport in Rio de Janeiro and performed a 45-minute flight before returning to its point of origin. The technical flight was approved by Airbus, the engine provider CFM International, and was authorized by aviation authorities in Europe (the European Aviation Safety Agency - EASA), and Brazil (National Civil Aviation Agency - ANAC).

“This experimental flight materializes TAM’s participation in a vast project to develop a production chain for renewable biofuel, with the purpose of creating a Brazilian platform for sustainable aviation bio-kerosene,” said Libano Barroso, president of TAM Airlines.

TAM Airlines and Airbus say that studies show the use of biofuels made from Jatropha could reduce the aviation sector’s overall carbon footprint by up to 80 percent, compared with conventional petroleum-based aviation kerosene. With such potential, both companies are supporting studies to assess the sustainability and economic viability of implementing the bio-kerosene in Brazil.

* According to the Department of Energy’s Transportation Energy Data Book, 2008

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Does their \"renewable\" energy accounting include the energy subsidies to farming through petroleum fertilizers, heavy equipment, processing, and shipping? Or is this another shallow greenwash to make us feel better about spending money?

Dave Myers

Now if Boeing would just give up on their ill-fated 787 and look to biofuel instead...

Carol Wilkerson

Aside from assorted fine points on the fuel the only three issues to consider are quality control, how it reacts with the fuel chain - from the refinery through to the injectors inside the engine; and how well it burns.......

A Jet Engine - really is a fuel sprayer in a tubular furnace with a fan at each end.... I mean if you can light it - it will run it. Although not REALLY ideal design and chemisty wise, you can run a jet engine on anything from hydrogen to hot road tar...

And SHIT - there are so many wankers doing and having their \"Oh we have performed a test of biofuel in our jet engines\"...

FFS - get over it - either shit or get off the pot; or either stoke the plane up with it and run it on it, or don\'t.

500 tests by 500 airlines on 500 loads of biofuel..... and gueswhat?

Gizmag reports test 501....

Mr Stiffy

\"Greenwash\"...\"ill-fated 787\"...the greenies on the fringe Left are luddites.


To grow a plant for biofuel means to destroy many forests and habitats and efficiency ozone for an army of planes or cars. Does US army they know what disaster they propose to "save" the Planet? They stops destroyng the air, but they start to destroy the source of the air... Why they don't waste the money on hydrogen or water fuel engines, because water will be more available if they destroy the forest and after that the Antarctica?!

Facebook User

There is nothing wrong with tax incentives and subsidies if they help move us toward reliable, affordable, diverse-sourced biofuels. If petroleum production uses petroleum, there is no reason biofuels cannot be used to produce biofuels and this will happen. The ecomentalist luddite extreme can either get out of the way or get run-over.

Bruce Curtis
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