In 2008, Boeing predicted that within three years biofuel-powered aircraft could be carrying passengers around the world (The Guardian UK). This month, that prediction came to fruition when on June 18, a Honeywell operated Gulfstream G450 became the first business jet powered by biofuel and the first aircraft to fly to Europe from North America using a 50% camelina derived biofuel and 50% petroleum-based jet fuel blend (WSJ). Camelina is a promising alternative fuel because it can be grown on marginal land in rotation with wheat acreage and therefore does not compete in the food chain. The aircraft used Rolls-Royce engines without making any modifications either to the aircraft or engines. Compared to a petroleum-based flight, the biofuel flight saved approximately 5.5 metric tons of net carbon dioxide emissions.

On June 20, Boeing fulfilled its prediction on the commercial scale. A Boeing 747-8F flight from Everett, Washington landed in Le Bourget, France becoming the first ever trans-Atlantic flight of a large commercial aircraft powered by a biofuel blend. The plane powered all four of its General Electric engines on a blend of 15% camelina-based biofuel mixed with 85% traditional kerosene. Importantly, like the earlier flight, the aircraft did not require modifications to run the biofuel blend.

Although biofuel technology has been around for a number of years, these flights herald a new beginning for large-scale adoption of greener jet fuels in the aviation sector. As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.