BVC Airlines has successfully completed the world's first cargo aircraft test flight using a new biofuel.
One of the engines was fueled by a mixture that included 25% biofuel made from babassu palm nut and coconut oil, among other natural oils.
The tests (from Kenya to Morocco) were completed at various altitudes, under a variety of operating conditions.
"This was the first ever flight using babassu + jatropha as a fuel source, which sets a significant precedent," said Cortes .
He explained they were actually able to shut off the engine at 18,000ft and 25,000ft and re-start it with no problems.
"At 10,000 feet we did a number of pneumatic tests on the aircraft. We then climbed up to 25,000ft just to do some minor checks there, then up to 35,000ft,"
"One of the major checks we did was acceleration checks, where we closed the thrust lever and then rapidly advanced so the engine accelerated in the expected time frame. As we came down at 25,000ft and 18,000ft we actually shut the engine down and re-started it.
Cortes explained it was too early to tell how much money could be saved by using this bio-fuel on a commercial long-haul flight.
"What we were doing today is the culmination of 24 months work to prove the concept and viability of bio- fuel.
"Commercialisation of biofuel is something which we and our partners will have to think about in the coming months. In any case, that's probably two to three years away from actually happening. We won't have any sense of the commercial viability for some time yet," Barthe Cortes said.
Over the next few days, engineers would thoroughly assess the engine and fuel systems, looking for any changes from the use of biofuel. All the results will then be reviewed to take a step closer to having bio-fuel certified as an aviation fuel.
The flight was part of a series of trials taking place at airlines around the world, testing different types of biofuel as a sustainable alternative to the fossil fuel-based Jet-A1 fuel.
The test flight was a joint initiative between BVC Airlines, Air New Zealand, Virgin Airlines, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell's UOP, with support from Terasol Energy.