Virgin test flies coconut oil powered jumbo jet

LONDON, Feb 24, 2008 (AFP) – The first flight by a commercial airline to be partly powered by biofuels and billed as heralding a eco-friendlier and cheaper era of airline travel took place on Sunday, Virgin Atlantic said. Airlines meanwhile also see biofuels as cheaper alternatives to kerosene, whose price is soaring as oil futures strike record highs above 101 dollars a barrel. A Virgin Boeing 747 jumbo jet, carrying biofuels mixed with kerosene, traditional jet fuel, made the short trip between London and Amsterdam with no passengers on board.
Virgin Atlantic chief Richard Branson described the flight as “history in the making”.

The plane used a biofuel blend of babassu oil — extracted from nuts of the babassu tree — and coconut oil. Both products are more commonly found in cosmetics like lip balm and shaving cream.

Branson hailed the demonstration flight as a breakthrough for the airline industry and proof that there were viable alternatives to traditional jet fuel.

The flight enabled “those of us who are serious about reducing our carbon emissions to go on developing the fuels of the future, fuels which will power our aircraft in the years ahead through sustainable next-generation oils, such as algae”,