Continental Airlines to conduct biobased test flight

By Erin Voegele | January 01, 2009
Web exclusive posted Dec. 10, 2008 at 11:18 a.m. CST

On Jan. 7, Continental Airlines will conduct the first algae- and jatropha-based biofuel-powered demonstration flight of a U.S. commercial airliner in Houston. Continental is partnering with The Boeing Co.; CFM International, a 50/50 joint company of General Electric Co. and Snecma; refining technology developer UOP, a Honeywell company; algae oil provider Sapphire Energy; and jatropha oil provider Terrasol.

According to Continental Airline's press release, the flight will be the first biofuel flight by a commercial carrier using algae as a fuel source and the first using a two-engine aircraft. A Boeing 737-800 equipped with CFM International CFM56-7B engines will complete the flight.

A blend of 50 percent biofuel and 50 percent traditional jet fuel will be used in one of the two CFM engines. The aircraft will be operating under a specially-issued "Experimental" aircraft type certificate, and will be flown by Continental's FAA-licensed test pilots. There will be no passengers on the plane.

The flight test plan calls for operating the No. 2 engine on the biofuel blend, including power accelerations and decelerations, in-flight engine shut-down, restart, and other flight maneuvers that include both normal and non-normal procedures. Numerous flight parameters will be recorded, and a post-flight engines analysis will be conducted. The findings are expected to show that the biofuel blend can readily be substituted for regular fuel without any degradation of performance or safety while providing a net reduction on carbon emissions.

Continental, Boeing, UOP and CFM have worked together for more than nine months on the research, production and testing of the biofuel, including laboratory and ground-based jet engine performance testing to ensure compliance with stringent aviation fuel performance and safety requirements.
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