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Lufthansa launches first daily commercial flights to run partially on biofuel

July 15, 2011 |  8:28 am

Travelers can now make it from Hamburg to Frankfurt in Germany and back using animal fat and plants, as the Lufthansa airline on Friday launched the first daily commercial passenger flights to run on biofuel.

The first flight took off from Hamburg at 11:15 a.m. Central European Time. Aircraft biofuel has been in demonstration phase for years, showing up in test flights by large jets, helicopters and even the Air Force Thunderbirds.

But now the blends are being worked into much heavier rotations. For four daily flights between the cities, Lufthansa will use a 50% biofuel blend in one of the engines of an Airbus A321.

The mixture of jatropha and camelina crops and animal fats was approved for use in jet engines earlier this month by the American Society for Testing and Materials, the reigning decision making body on fuels standards.

The fuel doesn’t require upgrades to existing engines and was sustainably sourced and produced so that no food crops or rainforests were impacted, the airline said. Lufthansa has spent about $9.3 million on biofuel projects so far, it said.

The roughly 250-mile flights will continue for six months as Lufthansa studies the effect of the biofuel blend on aircraft performance. But the company expects the trial run to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 1,500 tons.

Britain’s Thomson Airways has said it plans to operate a flight to Spain this summer using a biofuel mix involving cooking oil. Dutch airline KLM plans to use a similar blend for flights to and from France.

Biofuel will also play a major role in a hypersonic aircraft revealed by EADS last month at the Paris Air Show, which will be able to hop from Tokyo to Los Angeles in 2 1/2 hours.

Around the same time, the Air Transport Assn. of America said that several of its member airlines are gearing up to use fuel made from urban and agricultural waste in the next few years.


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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Lufthansa planes parked at an airport in Munich, Germany. Credit: Joerg Koch/Associated Press