Aeromexico in first commercial biofuel transcontinental flight

3 Aug 2011

Aeromexico has flown more than 250 passengers in an 11-hour flight from Mexico City to Madrid on a biofuel-powered Boeing 777-200ER airplane, the first ever commercial airplane to fly a transatlantic flight powered by biofuel.

The flight, which landed in Madrid yesterday, used a blend of 70pc traditional fuel (traditional kerosene) and 30pc biofuel, made from the Jatropha Curcas oilseed plant, which is grown in several regions of the world, including Mexico, according to a statement released by Boeing.

The biofuel was supplied by Boeing and the Airports and Auxiliary Services (ASA).

With aviation’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions set to grow, airlines have increasingly been looking into the potential of biofuels in tandem with traditional fuels to help them cope with soaring fuel prices, as well as meeting demands to lower their emissions.

In 2009, Continental Airlines ran the first test for the first flight of an algae-fuelled jet.

ASTM International, the US technical standards body, last month gave approval to airlines to fly commercial planes using fuel derived from inedible plants and organic waste. It said it approves blends of up to 50pc biofuel.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has anticipated that a 6pc share of sustainable second-generation biofuels could be achievable by 2020.

Virgin, BA, KLM, Qantas and Thomson have all dabbled with the use of biofuel mixes for commercial flights.

In July, KLM became the first airline in the world to operate a commercial flight on biokerosene. Last month, Mexico’s Interject carried out a commercial flight that was partially fuelled by biofuel between Mexico City and Tuxtla Gutierrez.

Hypersonic jet on clean fuels – 2050 vision

Meanwhile, aerospace group EADS revealed its concept ‘hypersonic’ jet at the Paris Air Show in June 2011. It predicts the jet could be flying long-haul routes by 2050 as a standard aircraft and running on clean fuels, such as biofuel and liquid hydrogen, as well as emitting less noise pollution.

To Costa Rica on biofuel

But back to Aeromexico, which says it will implement a programme over the next year with Boeing 737-700 equipment powered by CFM56-7B22 engines, in co-ordination with ASA, of commercial flights using biofuel to destinations, such as San Jose, Costa Rica.

In October 2009, Boeing and ASA signed a memorandum, agreeing on a series of studies and formalising their collaboration to work through the roundtable for sustainable biofuels.

Grupo Aeromexico operates its main hub out of Terminal 2 in the Mexico City International Airport. The group’s airlines operate more than 500 daily flights to different cities in Mexico, the US, Canada, Central and South America, Europe and Asia.

Aeromexico is also a founding member of SkyTeam, the global airline alliance comprised of Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Eastern, China Southern, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Kenya Airways, Korean Air, TAROM Romanian Air Transport, and Vietnam Airlines.

Photo: Boeing 777 Aeromexico airplane

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic