United and Continental Fly First U.S. Commercial Biofuel Flight
On the heels of an announcement by Alaska Airlines that it would start two weeks of regular passenger service by biofuel-powered aircraft, United Airlines announced that its subsidiary, Continental Airlines, operated the first U.S. commercial flight powered by advanced biofuels. The Boeing 737-800 departed Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston at 10:30 a.m.with passengers, headed for Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
The aircraft is powered by jet fuel that uses refined algae oil developed by Solazyme. United has signed a letter of intent with Solazyme to purchase 20 million gallons of the fuel per year, beginning in 2014. The biofuel is a Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) fuel and meets ASTM International specifications, as well as manufacture, military, and FAA standards. No modification of airplane equipment is required for using biofuel.
In January 2009, Continental became the first airline in the U.S. to conduct a demonstration flight of an aircraft powered by biofuel.
“United is taking a significant step forward to advance the use of environmentally responsible and cost-efficient alternative fuels,” said Pete McDonald, United’s executive vice president and chief operations officer. “Sustainable biofuels, produced on a large scale at an economically viable price, can one day play a meaningful role in powering everyone’s trip on an airline.”
The flight is part of United’s Eco-Skies initiative, which aims to increase environmental awareness and efficiencies in the airline industry.