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Air NZ biofuel test flight a success

Published: 3:08PM Tuesday December 30, 2008 Source: Newstalk ZB

Our national carrier has made aviation history, becoming the world's first commercial airline to run a test flight powered by biofuel.

Every year Air New Zealand planes pump around 3.5 million tonnes of C02 in the atmosphere, with fuel charges costing over a billion dollars.  But now the airline is finding ways at reducing its environmental impact.

On Tuesday, Air New Zealand's test flight of jatropha biofuel, was touted as a major success.

The Boeing 747-400, with one of its four engines powered by the fuel, touched down at Auckland International Airport after two hours of in-flight tests above the Hauraki Gulf.

Air New Zealand's Chief Pilot, Captain Dave Morgan, says the jatropha fuel performed well through both the fuel system and engine, just as lab tests proved it would.

"We undertook a range of tests on the ground and in-flight with the jatropha biofuel performing well through both the fuel system and engine, just as laboratory tests proved it would," says Morgan.

The test flight is a joint initiative between Air New Zealand, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell's UOP, with support from Terasol Energy.

Over the next few days, engineers will assess the engine and its fuel systems looking for any changes.

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Rob Fyfe says the completion of the flight is a significant milestone and something every New Zealander should be proud of.

"It is Air New Zealand's long-term goal to become the world's most environmentally sustainable airline and we have today made further significant progress towards this," says Fyfe.

It is expected to be several years before the bio-fuel can be assessed and marketed in quantities great enough to be used on flights carrying passengers.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority says jatropha is a second generation biofuel, meaning the source plant does not compete with food production or impact on environmentally important land.

Jatropha grows in arid land in Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi - and is inedible to humans and animals.

Go to the Air New Zealand website for more information on the world's first biofuel test flight.