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Biofuel takes flight at Virgin

Associated Press
Published February 25, 2008


LONDON - Virgin Atlantic carried out the world's first flight of a commercial aircraft powered with biofuel on Sunday in an effort to show it can produce less carbon dioxide than normal jet fuels.

Some analysts praised the jumbo jet test flight from London to Amsterdam, Netherlands, as a potentially useful experiment. But others criticized it as a publicity stunt and noted scientists are questioning the environmental benefits of biofuels.

"This breakthrough will help Virgin Atlantic to fly its planes using clean fuel sooner than expected," Sir Richard Branson, the airline's president, said before the Boeing 747 flew from London's Heathrow Airport to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

The flight was partially fueled with a biofuel mixture of coconut and babassu oil in one of its four main fuel tanks. Only the pilots and technicians were on board.

Virgin Atlantic spokesman Paul Charles predicted this biofuel would produce much less CO2 than regular jet fuel, but said it will take weeks to analyze the data from Sunday's flight.

The flight is the latest example of how the world's airlines are jumping on the environmental bandwagon by trying to find ways of reducing aviation's carbon footprint.

These efforts have included finding alternative jet fuels, developing engines that burn existing fuels more slowly, and changing the way planes land.