Budget carrier SpiceJet today successfully operated India’s first test flight powered by biojet fuel. According to the airline, a Bombardier 78-seater Q400 aircraft, partially using biojet fuel, took off from Dehradun and landed at the airport in the national capital.
The flight was powered with a blend of 75 per cent air turbine fuel (ATF) and 25 per cent biojet fuel, it said.
The global aviation body IATA (International Air Transport Association) recently set out a target for one billion passengers to fly on aircraft using a mix of clean energy and fossil fuels by 2025. To put it into context, some 4.1 billion people flew last year globally.
In a release, the airline said the advantage of using biojet fuel as compared to ATF is that it reduces carbon emissions and enhances fuel efficiency. Made from Jatropha crop, the fuel has been developed by the CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP), Dehradun, SpiceJet said.
Around 20 people, including officials from aviation regulator DGCA and SpiceJet, were in the test flight. The duration of the flight was around 25 minutes, according to an airline executive.
SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh said biojet fuel is low cost and helps in significantly reducing carbon emissions.
“It has the potential to reduce our dependence on traditional aviation fuel by up to 50 per cent on every flight and bring down fares,” he said.
According to global airlines’ body IATA, aviation industry contributes to two per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions. The biojet fuel has been recognised by American Standard Testing Method (ASTM) and meets the specification standards of Pratt & Whitney and Bombardier for commercial application in aircraft.
Business Today had earlier reported that bio-jet fuel, which is prepared from inedible oils and fats, is 60-70 per cent more expensive than conventional jet fuel. A change in the ATF (aviation turbine fuel) mix could bump up cost of operations for airlines, and affect their bottomlines.
In 2008, a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 flew from London to Amsterdam in a first ever flight using biojet fuel. Since then, a number of airlines have taken to the biojet fuel path, including Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Qantas, and United Airlines who have made significant investments by forward-purchasing 1.5 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
Some airports such as Oslo, Stockholm, Brisbane and Los Angeles are already mixing SAF with the regular jet fuel.
In 2017, some 100,000 flights were flown on bio-jet fuel across the globe, and IATA expects this number to hit one million flights by 2020. A flight completely powered by biojet fuel has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by up to 80 per cent.