In the spirit of grand old American competition, two major U.S. air carriers – United Airlines and Alaska Airlines – are both launching commercial flights powered by biofuel this week, the companies announced on Monday.
United, the world’s largest airline, will send off America’s first biofuel-powered commercial flight from Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Monday morning, the company said. The Boeing 737-800 will be powered by a blend of 60 percent petroleum-based jet fuel and 40 percent algae-derived biofuel, Reuters reports.
Solazyme Inc., the makers of the biofuel, said it can be readily applied to commercial and military aviation. And United seems to think so, too. The company signed a letter of intent with Solazyme to purchase 20 million gallons of the algae fuel per year by 2014, according to United.
Not to be outdone, Alaska Airlines will fly two maiden biofuel-powered flights from Seattle to Portland and Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, the company said. The Wednesday departures will be the first of 75 biofuel flights Alaska and its sister carrier, Horizon Air, will fly between the three cities over the next few weeks.
Alaska Air Group’s fleet of Boeing 737s and Bombardier Q400s will be powered by 80 percent standard jet fuel and 20 percent biofuel made from used cooking oil, the company said. Supplied by SkyNRG, an aviation biofuels broker, and made by Dynamic Fuels, the waste oil fuel is as cost-effective, safe and efficient as petroleum fuel, the company said.
The move towards eco-friendly air travel has been making headlines in recent months, as Virgin Atlantic announced plans to fly planes on waste gas and Boeing announced its fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliner.
Hydroprocessed renewable fuels were just approved for commercial flights four months ago by the ASTM International Committee on Petroleum Products and Lubricants. And the fact that two airlines are already using these fuels for their routes demonstrates the viability of renewables in air travel, said John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist for the Air Transport Association of America.