The world’s first biofuel flight
by David Masters
February 26, 2008
A plane powered only by biofuel crossed the North Sea this week in a short haul flight from Heathrow to Amsterdam.
The flight was carried out by Virgin Atlantic, and used biofuel derived from Brazilian babassu nuts and coconuts to power one of the engines. The other engines were ready to use standard aviation fuel as a back up in an emergency, but were not needed.
Virgin hopes that the flight will be seen as the dawn of a new era for flying, and as the beginning of sustainable aviation.
Before the flight, Virgin Atlantic’s president, Richard Branson, said: “This breakthrough will help Virgin Atlantic to fly its planes using clean fuel sooner than expected.
“The demonstration flight will give us crucial knowledge that we can use to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint.
“Virgin Group pledged to invest all its profits from its transportation companies towards developing clean energy and with this breakthrough we are well down the path to achieving our goals.”
Branson’s company have also said that by the time bio-fuel flights are available to consumers, the fuel will be grown in tanks as it will be derived from algae. This will mean that the fuel crops don’t have to compete with food crops for land.
Greenpeace, however, have written off the flight as “high altitude greenwash”, and have said that the cultivation of fuel crops spells potential disaster for the world’s climate.
Greenpeace’s chief scientist, Dr. Doug Parr, said: “The scientific evidence is now clear – using the finite amount of land we have to grow biofuels is bad for the world’s poor, bad for biodiversity and bad for the climate.
“Instead of looking for a magic green bullet, Virgin should focus on the real solution to this problem and call for a halt to relentless airport expansion.”
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