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December 2008
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Plane Talking

Air New Zealand jatropha flight, update 4

The Air New Zealand biofuel test flight went very well, by all accounts. The Jatropha-derived fuel performed as well as the normal Jet-A1 fuel in the other three engines of the Boeing 747-400. There will now be some further on-the-ground tests to be completed in Auckland before the second-generation biofuel is taken for even more analysis and then the rigorous steps towards certification for use in normal flights. You can’t fault our industry for being cautious with these things!

Bill Glover, one of the industry’s environmental leaders and head of environment strategy at Boeing reminded the audience in Auckland of the global context of this flight, saying that this was one test out of a number that will occur this year around the world. He also mentioned the Declaration signed last April in Geneva at the Aviation & Environment Summit 2008:


We are currently preparing for the 2009 Aviation & Environment Summit, to be held here in Geneva on 31 March and 1 April. I will post more details about it in due course, but the Summit website is up and running so you can visit to see who is on the programme so far at this invitation-only event.

But back to the test flight and Air New Zealand has made some video available on its excellent biofuel test flight website. In their media release, they explained some of the tests that occurred during the flight this morning, during all of which the biofuel performed excellently:

Take off: A full power take off, with throttles advanced as per normal operating conditions, establishing three-quarter power and then to full power.

Climb: The aircraft climbs to 25,000 feet. At an altitude of 20,000 – 25,000 feet, the main fuel pump for engine one (the engine powered by the biofuel) will be switched off. This will test the lubricity of the fuel, ensuring the friction of the fuel does not slow down its flow to the engine.

Cruise: Once cruising at 35,000 feet the auto-throttle will be switched off and the crew will manually set all engine controls, so the Engine Pressure Ratios (EPRs) and other engine performance parameters across all four engines can be checked for identical readings.

Deceleration/acceleration: The crew will control the fuel flow to the engine and measure the rate of change of the engine under these changing operating conditions.

Descent: Engine one will be shut down at 26,000 feet with a windmilling restart at 300knots. An engine shutdown will take place again at 18,000 feet, this time with a starter-assisted relight at 220 knots.

Simulated approach and go around: When the aircraft is at 11,000 feet the autopilot will be programmed to land on a runway “located” at 8,000 feet and undertake a missed approach. This is to test the performance of the fuel under maximum thrust.

Landing: The flight will be completed with a normal landing, including the use of reverse thrust upon touchdown. The aircraft will then taxi back to the hardstand, stop all engines and restart engine #1 by itself.

For full details and more video and images, visit the Air New Zealand website. Also, a few media items of note, from journalists on the ground:



Comment from Lloyd Sealey BA Capt London
Time January 5, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Bravo Bravo Bravo
Well done Air New Zealand for this trial and research.
This source of fuel offers a sustainable future to our industry, as well as income to some of the poorer nations of our world where the biomass could be grown.
If human greed does not again intervene, there is a truly wonderful opportunity here.

Comment from clive richardson
Time April 17, 2009 at 3:50 pm
Kilimanjaro Bio Fuels was established to research and develop the opportunity to promote Bio Jet Fuel from Jatropha Curcas Linn as a sustainable resource. The activities include the promotion of a JCL Centre of Excellence and community development/extension of the plant species throughout the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania as a non-competitive fully integrated tree species that would provide oil for process activities. The economic development zone of the Kilimanjaro International Airport is the most ideal location for process and refinery technology in East Africa.

Comment from power take off
Time September 19, 2009 at 3:21 pm

My former roommate was working for Air New Zealand, they really focused on this.