Continental Airlines successfully test-flies Boeing 737-800 jet using algae-jatropha blend bio-fuel

Thursday, January 8, 2009, 17:39 by Aviation Correspondent


As a part of the efforts taking place around the world to cut greenhouse-gas emissions from aircraft that contributes to global warming, Continental Airlines, based in Houston, Texas, the United States, has conducted a demonstration flight using biofuel. 

In the test flight – the first such test conducted in the United States with a commercial jet – Continental Airlines used a fuel blend made from algae and the jatropha plant to power an unmodified, twin-engine Boeing 737-800 jet.

A statement from Continental Airlines said that the test flight, which took off without incident around 12:15 p.m. (Houston time) on January 7, 2009, at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, lasted about 90 minutes.

“It all went according to plan,” a spokesman for Continental Airlines said. “The initial observations are that there is no difference in terms of the performance of the airplane.”  

This was the first test flight of its kind to take place in North America and also the first to use a twin-engine aircraft. 


Leah Raney, Continental Airlines’ managing director of global environmental affairs, said in an interview: “Continental’s test flight using biofuel is a step toward the International Air Transport Association’s goal of having member-carriers use 10% alternative fuels by 2017 to reduce global warming. ” Raney also said that the European Union would cap airline carbon-dioxide emissions beginning in 2012. “We are watching as different countries set carbon-reduction targets, and we have been working very diligently to reduce our carbon footprint over the last 10 years,”  she added.

Continental Airlines, the fourth largest United States-based airline, operates flights to destinations throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific regions. 


More fuel-efficient planes, Raney added, have helped Continental Airlines trim its output of heat-trapping gases by 35%.

The aviation sector accounts for about 2% of global emissions of carbon dioxide, according to estimates by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). 

In December 2008, Air New Zealand, the flag-carrier airline of New Zealand and the country’s biggest airline, flew a Boeing 747-400 plane that used a 50-50 blend of oil derived from the jatropha plant and conventional fuel in one of the jumbo jet’s four engines.

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