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Continental Airlines Flight Tests 50:50 Biofuel Blend in a 737

Continental Airlines flight tested a 50:50 blend of bio-derived “green jet” fuel and traditional jet fuel in the first demonstration of the use of sustainable biofuel to power a commercial aircraft in North America. (Earlier post.)

The demonstration flight, conducted in partnership with Boeing, GE Aviation/CFM International, and Honeywell’s UOP, marked the first sustainable biofuel demonstration flight by a commercial carrier using a two-engine aircraft: a Boeing 737-800 equipped with CFM International CFM56-7B engines. Continental ran the blend in Engine No. 2.

UOP produced the green jet fuel—a synthetic paraffinic kerosene—from algae and jatropha plants, both sustainable, second-generation sources that do not impact food crops or water resources or contribute to deforestation. The algae oil was provided by Sapphire Energy, and the jatropha oil by Terasol Energy. This marked the first time a commercial carrier powered a flight using fuel derived in part from algae.

During the two-hour test flight, Continental pilots engaged the aircraft in a number of normal and non-normal flight maneuvers, such as mid-flight engine shutdown and re-start, and power accelerations and decelerations. A Continental engineer recorded flight data onboard. Continental will participate with its partners in post-flight engine analysis to ensure that the effect on the engine and aircraft, in addition to performance, is substantively no different between biofuel and traditional fuel.

Continental Airlines is the world’s fifth largest airline.


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