June 17, 2011 By: Mark Halper
Plane will fly from US to Paris air show in first long-distance test of aviation biofuels
A Gulfstream jet will fly from New Jersey to Paris, making the first ever non-stop trans-ocean flight powered by biofuels. Photograph: Gulfstream
A corporate jet is scheduled to make the first ever non-stop trans-ocean flight powered by biofuels on Friday night when it leaves Morristown, New Jersey, bound for Paris.
Pilot Ron Weight will take off in a Gulfstream G450 at around 9pm from Morristown airport, ferrying two American executives from the fuel’s suppliers, Honeywell. He will land at Paris-Le Bourget airport mid-morning on Saturday.
Importantly, Honeywell has not refitted the Gulfsteam’s engines to accommodate the fuel.
“We’ve made no changes to the engine or the aircraft, and we are confident that the plane will perform exactly as it should,” said Weight, a Honeywell employee.
Two days later, pilots Keith Otsuka, Rick Braun and Sten Rossby are scheduled to trump Weight in distance and aircraft size when they leave for Paris from Everett, Washington, in a biofuel-powered Boeing 747-8 cargo plane, also using fuel from Honeywell.
Both planes are heading to the Paris air show, where Honeywell and Boeing will promote biofuels as technically ready to replace conventional petroleum jet fuels – typically kerosene – and help the airline industry reduce its massive carbon footprint.
“This is a great opportunity to show people that this stuff is here today, that is it is not five or six years off,” said Jim Rekoske, vice president and general manager of Honeywell’s fuel subsidiary, Honeywell UOP. Rekoske will be on Friday’s flight, as will Carl Esposito,vice president of Honeywell Aerospace.
The planes will use biofuel processed from camelina, an inedible plant that Honeywell has helped cultivate in Montana and process for the U.S. military. Friday’s flight will use a 50/50 mix of biofuel and conventional fuel, while Sunday’s trip from Washington will be 15% biofuel.
According to Rekoske, they are not using 100% biofuel because petroleum-based jet fuels contain aromatics that help tighten plastic seals in jet engines. Biofuels lack aromatics, but a 50/50 blend includes enough to fly safely.
A key American standards body, ASTM, seems to agree. Earlier this month it gave tentative approval to jet biofuels and said it could issue final approval by 1 July.
That would clear the way for commercial flights. Lufthansa is awaiting final approval from ASTM before it starts daily flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt using biofuel from Finland’s Neste Oil.
In the US, Seattle-based alternative fuels producer AltAir Fuels has signed a memorandum of understanding with 14 airlines to supply biofuel.
Aviation biofuels still face hurdles, with criticism focusing on their environmental impact and their higher price than conventional fuel. Rekoske thinks price can decline to a competitive level by 2013.
Source: THE GUARDIAN UK