Air New Zealand, along with Boeing, Rolls-Royce, and Honeywell, retooled one of the four Rolls-Royce RB211 engines on a Boeing 747-400 to run on an unusually fruity blend of half Jet A1 fuel and half jatropha oil, according to Air New Zealand.
Jatropha is a succulent plant commonly grown in the semi-arid areas of India that produces seeds containing an oil that can be harvested and processed into a biofuel.
Jatropha has been used in making biodiesel for cars and trucks, but this is one of the first known attempts to use it as a biofuel in a commercial-size airplane.
Air New Zealand is not, however, the first commercial airline to try flying on a mixture containing biofuels. Several airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, have been testing out the sustainable idea of bio jet fuel mixed with jet fuel.
The jatropha bio jet fuel was supplied by Terasol Energy, which certified that the fuel supply met sustainability criteria.
The fuel stock in no way affected the environment or displaced other crops, David Morgan, chief pilot at Air New Zealand, explained in a video press release (below).
The two-hour test flight took off and landed from an Auckland, New Zealand, airport on Tuesday.
The test run was part of a program to research better sustainable air travel.
International Air Transport Association (IATA) lists jatropha as a promising next-generation bio-jet fuel for the airline industry because the hardy plant can be grown in poor quality soil needing little water.