With global aviation bodies like International Air Transport Association pressing for reduction of carbon emissions in the sector, some major airlines have carried out test flights using bio-fuel and alternative fuel, which are cleaner.

Though the civil aviation sector accounts for only two per cent of the global carbon emission, the industry has conducted sufficient research on the usage of alternative fuels, from the prospective of both environment and cost.

Qatar Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Continental Airlines, Air New Zealand and Japan Airlines are some of the global carriers which have carried out experiments to fly their aircraft using a blend of alternative fuel and aviation turbine fuel.

Qatar Airways CEO Albar Al Baker recently told PTI that his country was set to become the primary supplier of a new and cleaner jet fuel that powers an aircraft by a refined form of natural gas.

The airline, he said, was also planning to use the Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) fuel in many of its planes over the next few years. GTL, a 50-50 blend of gas and conventional oil-based kerosene fuel, was successfully tested last month on a Airbus A 340-600 aircraft, which flew from London Gatwick to Doha using Rolls Royce Trent engines.

“Qatar’s position as the GTL capital of the world has been enhanced with this achievement. GTL technology enables us to produce liquid fuels and other products from natural gas in our bid to achieve carbon—neutral growth,” he said.

The first experiment with green fuel was conducted by Virgin Atlantic when it flew a Boeing 747 jumbo from Heathrow to Amsterdam in February 2008 with one of its engines powered by a fuel made out of coconut and babassu nut that is found in the Amazon forests.

Continental Airlines, Air New Zealand and Japan Airlines have also carried out similar biofuel experiments with flying Boeing 737s and Boeing 747s in January this year.

Pointing out that emission reductions could be achieved through technology, infrastructure and sustainable bio-fuels, the IATA has said the prospects of bio-fuels were the most exciting because for the first time air transport has the possibility of an alternative to traditional jet fuel.

“Our attention is on camelina, jatropha and algae which do not compete for land or water with food crops but have the potential to reduce our carbon footprint by up to 80 per cent,” IATA DG and CEO Giovanni Bisignani said recently, adding, these could be grown in almost any soil condition, in salt water or even waste water.

He said four test flights with sustainable bio-fuels have proven that they meet the technical and safety standards for use in commercial aviation.

“Progress is going at a much faster pace than anybody anticipated. Three years ago sustainable bio-fuels were a dream. Now we expect certification no later than 2011,” Bisignani said.

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