Hainan Airlines makes nation’s first biofuel-powered passenger flight

Hainan Airlines, one of China’s largest carriers, announced on Saturday it had completed the country’s first passenger flight with biofuel, a milestone for the use of clean energy in the country’s aviation industry.

The flight, which carried more than 100 passengers from Shanghai to Beijing on a Boeing 737-800, used biofuel made by Sinopec from waste cooking oil collected from restaurants.

The engines were powered by fuel that was blended half with biofuel and half with traditional jet fuel, and could reduce carbon dioxide emission by 50 to 80 per cent for each flight, according to the company.

“The flying was as smooth as before, and the power was no different from traditional jet fuel,” Pu Ming, vice president of Hainan Airlines and also the flight’s pilot, said after landing. 

Luo Chen, a female passenger on the plane, told the Global Times on Saturday that she was told by the pilot when boarding the airplane that the flight would use biofuel, “I was a little concerned at first, because the fuel is different from the usual, but it seemed fine when flying.”

Biofuel is normally based on renewable resources like raw materials including coconut oil, palm oil, linseed oil, algae oil, animal fats and restaurant waste oil.

It is not the first time a Chinese carrier has tested biofuel.  

In October 2011, Air China, the nation’s flag carrier, conducted the first test flight with aviation biofuel with a Boeing 747-400, followed by China Eastern Airlines which conducted a test flight with biofuel with an Airbus A320 in April 2013. 

However, the biggest barrier for biofuel usage is the high cost.

Xu Hui, an official from Sinopec, said at the press conference that the aviation fuel cost for the flight was double or even triple that for regular flights.  

“After the cost goes down, it can be used on more flights,” Zhou Zhijun, chief dispatcher from Operation Control Department with Hainan Airlines Co, said at the press conference.

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