Birmingham Hosts UK’s First Commercial Biofuel Flight

Thomson Airways and Birmingham Airport combined forces to make a little piece of aviation history on October 6 by providing the UK’s first commercial biofuel flight.  
The starboard power plant of the Thomson Airways twin-engined Boeing 757 flight was fuelled with a 50/50 mix of normal Jet A1 fuel and what was described as Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids, which were produced from waste cooking oil. 
The cooking oil used for the biofuel flights is collected from the kitchens of hotels and restaurants before being processed as aviation fuel.
Although the Thomson Airways flight to Lanzarote with 232 passengers hopefully marks a step towards ‘greener’ flying in the years ahead, all involved recognise that there is still much work to be done before biofuels could fully replace regular aviation fuel.    
Carl Gissing, The airline’s Director of Customer Services, told Airports International that the biofuel used for the inaugural flight cost around five to six times the price of standard aviation fuel, but said Thomson was prepared to: “put its money where our mouth is” because it believes it is the right path to take.  He added, “We are proud to be leading the way with the first commercial biofuel flights and we hope it will make people sit up and take notice.”  He said that he hoped that it would lead to governments and the wider aviation industry investing in the development of biofuels and that the airline had no plans to pass on the extra costs currently involved to its customers.
The next biofuel flight will take place in six weeks time and Thomson says that it will start a series of biofuel-powered flights from Birmingham in 2012.  (Photo Tom Allett)
(See the November 2011 edition of Airports International for more details)