Air New Zealand, Boeing set test flight date

By Anna Austin | November 13, 2008
Web exclusive posted Nov. 19, 2008 at 9:39 a.m. CST

Air New Zealand Ltd., Boeing Co., Rolls-Royce Motors and UOP LLC's much-anticipated biofueled jetliner test-flight date has finally been set.

Slated for Dec. 3, the 747-400 jetliner will leave Auckland, New Zealand, with one of its four Rolls-Royce RV211 engines partially powered by fuel derived from jatropha. The flight will reputedly designate Air New Zealand as the first airline to use a sustainable, commercially viable biofuel.

UOP, an Ill.-based Honeywell company, supplied its hydroprocessing technology to convert jatropha into the jet fuel. The company developed the process under a $6.7 million contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to produce renewable JP-8 jet fuel for military aircraft.

Rolls-Royce reported that tests performed by its technical team indicated the fuel met all critical specifications, including a freeze point at -50 degrees Fahrenheit and a flash point at 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The fuel used in the single engine will be mixed 50-50 with Jet A1 fuel.

"Laboratory testing showed the final blend had excellent properties meeting and, in many cases, exceeding the stringent requirements for fuels used in civil and defense aircraft," said Chris Lewis, Rolls-Royce company specialist for fuels.

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Rob Fyfe said introducing a new generation of sustainable fuels is the next logical step in the company's efforts to save fuel and reduce aircraft emissions.

"We recently demonstrated the fuel and environmental gains that can be achieved through advanced operational procedures using Boeing 777s," Fyfe said. "We are also modernizing our fleet as we await our Trent 1000-powered 787-9 Dreamliners, which will burn 20 percent less fuel than the planes they replace."

The companies said additional details will be released closer to the flight date.
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