Biofuel jet makes aviation history

A test flight has seen a Boeing 747 fuelled solely by biofuel cross the North Sea on a short haul from Heathrow to Amsterdam.

Virgin Atlantic conducted the flight, used biofuel derived from Brazilian babassu nuts and coconuts to drive one engine – the other three were primed with standard aviation fuel to provide back up in the case of emergency but were not needed.

While Virgin would like the flight to be seen as the dawn of a new, more sustainable age for aviation, Greenpeace branded the demonstration flight ‘high altitude greenwash’ arguing that the cultivation and processing of fuel crops is potentially catastrophic for the climate.

Before the flight Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic, 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.”

The company also said that by the time biofuel-driven passenger flights became a reality, the fuel could be derived from tank-grown algae and not fuel stock which compete with food crops for agricultural land.

Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace, said: “Today’s flight is nothing short of high altitude greenwash.

“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.”

Sam Bond

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