Continental Airlines, in conjunction with Boeing and GE Aviation, has announced plans to conduct a biofuel demonstration flight in the first half of 2009. Continental will be the first major U.S. carrier to undertake such a flight in an effort to identify sustainable fuel solutions for the aviation industry.
The exploration and testing of biofuels within the aviation industry has become increasingly prevalent over the last six months. In October 2007 Boeing announced plans to accelerate its bio-jet fuel development program and in February this year, partnered with Virgin in the first commercial test flight of a plane using biofuel. October last year also saw the first 100% biodiesel fueled jet flight take place with an L-29 military aircraft.
Continental’s biofuel flight will use a Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft equipped with CFM International CFM56-7B engines. CFM is a joint enterprise of General Electric Company and Snecma. In the months leading up to the flight, Continental, Boeing and GE will work together and with an undisclosed fuel provider to identify sustainable fuel sources that don't impact food crops, water resources or contribute to deforestation, and which can be produced in sufficient quantities to support a pre-flight test schedule that includes laboratory and ground-based jet engine performance testing to ensure compliance with stringent aviation fuel performance and safety requirements.
As the first North American commercial airline carrier to pursue an alternative fuels strategy, Continental plans to highlight technological advancements in sustainable biofuels that can help to reduce carbon emissions. "Exploring sustainable biofuels is a logical and exciting new step in our environmental commitment. For more than a decade, we have been focused on reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions, while providing industry-leading service to the places our customers want to go," said Mark Moran, Continental Airlines executive vice president of operations.
The biofuel test flight is part of Continental's ongoing commitment to reduce environmental impacts. The airline has achieved a 35%reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption per mainline revenue passenger mile flown over the past 10 years. Continental has invested more than $12 billion to acquire 270 fuel-efficient aircraft and related equipment and is a launch customer for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, powered by GE engines. The 787 Dreamliner will provide operators with a more environmentally efficient jetliner, including lower carbon emissions and quieter takeoffs and landings. Further details for the biofuel demonstration flight will be available leading up to the flight date.