The international aerospace community today marked a new milestone in sustainable aviation with the launch of a first-ever series of biofuel-powered intercontinental flights.
As part of a 25-week pilot program undertaken by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) -- in partnership with the Schiphol Group, Delta Air Lines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey -- a KLM B777-200 fueled in part by biofuel, departed from JFK International Airport for Schiphol Amsterdam Airport on March 8.
The expanded use of biofuel for aviation would significantly reduce the industry’s carbon footprint and its dependence on fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft account for more than half of all airport-related emissions.
“I am proud that KLM is once again demonstrating its leading role in developing sustainable biofuel. For eight years in a row, KLM, together with Air France, has been sector leader on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Alongside this biofuel series, we are starting a study to further identify sustainability gains in fuel, weight and carbon dioxide reduction throughout the entire flight process. We are striving to achieve the ‘optimal flight’ together with research institutes, suppliers, airports, and air traffic control. We are combining new and existing technology, processes, and efficiency initiatives to achieve this. Cooperation is a priority!” said Camiel Eurlings, KLM’s Managing Director.
“The aviation community has an obligation to demonstrate leadership in promoting global sustainability,” said Jos Nijhuis, President of Schiphol Group. "Schiphol has long recognized our responsibility to minimize our environmental footprint. We are proud to join with our partners to broaden the use of biofuels as one important step in this effort.”
Under the pilot program, biofuel – derived from used cooking oil -- is blended into conventional fuels. Under this initiative, flights run partially on sustainable biofuel.
Commercially viable biofuels for jet aircraft have been in development for many years. While these fuels are certified for use in jet aircraft, they have not been widely deployed because they cost significantly more than conventional jet fuel and are usually available in small volumes. A key goal of the pilot program is to drive demand for biofuels in a way that helps lower the cost of sustainable fuel to levels competitive with fossil fuels.
“Delta recognizes the business value in working through and with its partners to address a significant environmental issue such as climate change,” said Ed Bastian, President of Delta Air Lines. “The potential for biofuel to contribute to our climate change strategy could be quite significant once issues of supply and cost are addressed. This pilot program is a step in the right direction.”
“The Port Authority is pleased to partner with KLM on their pioneering series of transatlantic biofuel flights,” said Susan Baer, Aviation Director for The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “This program complements our agency’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at our airports and design resilient, energy-efficient, high-performance facilities for the future.”
Participants in the biofuel pilot program are active supporters of the C40 initiative, a network of 40 of the world’s largest cities – including New York and Amsterdam -- taking coordinated action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate risks.
The initial American biofuel flight in the series on March 8 was a return flight as part of a round trip from Amsterdam to New York and back to Amsterdam. For the remaining 25 weeks, the pilot program will involve weekly flights departing from JFK on KLM flight 642 on Thursdays.
The Port Authority’s role in the biofuel pilot program consists of on-the ground facilitation and in-kind contributions of fueling services. The Port Authority is also dedicating two 10,000-gallon refuelers to the operation.
KLM’s biofuel is supplied by SkyNRG, a company which KLM founded 2009 together with North Sea Group and Spring Associates. SkyNRG is now the world’s market leader for sustainable kerosene, supplying more than fifteen carriers worldwide. As of April, KLM will use RSB-certified (Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels) biofuel. RSB has set the world’s highest standard for respecting people and the environment in biofuel production.