The Richard Branson owned airline, Virgin Atlantic, announced today that they will run their first test flight of an aircraft using bio-diesel in February, by flying a Boeing 747 from London to Amsterdam.
The flight, which will have no passengers on board, will be used for research into the viability of using bio-fuels across their fleet. Virgin state that the bio-diesel used is not competing with food stocks, although no details have yet been given – including the percentage of bio-diesel to standard jet fuel.
Sir Richard Branson, President of Virgin Atlantic, said: “This breakthrough will help Virgin Atlantic to fly its planes using clean fuel sooner than expected. The demonstration flight next month will give us crucial knowledge that we can use to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint. Virgin Group pledged to invest all its profits from its transportation companies towards developing clean energy and with this breakthrough we are well down the path to achieving our goals.”
The goal in particular he is referring to is the aim to improve the fuel efficiency of the Virgin fleet by 30% over the next ten years – a project named the Virgin Green Fund initiative, and one which is well funded. In early 2007 Richard Branson pledged he would invest all the profits from his travel companies over the next 10 years to fighting climate change, a total that is estimated to be around $3 billion.
The announcement of the test flight comes soon after Virgin Atlantic revealed that they would switching their tea and coffee to Fairtrade brands, and the introduction of an onboard carbon offset option for its passengers. If the flight is successful, and with the continuing rise of fuel costs, bio-diesel could easily become a standard fuel within the aviation industry and dramatically reduce the environmental impact of flying.