Last Sunday, Boeing, Virgin Atlantic and GE Aviation partnered up for the first commercial aviation flight
using a sustainable fuel from biomass, mixed with traditional kerosene-based jet fuel. The Virgin Atlantic 747-400 flew using a biofuel blend of babassu oil and coconut oil provided by Seattle-based Imperium Renewables
. The babassu nuts and coconuts used in the fuel were harvested from existing, mature plantations and no modifications were made to either the aircraft or its engines. Earlier this year an Airbus 380 flew using a synthetic liquid fuel processed from natural gas. Boeing is planning to use findings from this flight toward helping it plan another biofuel flight later this year with Air New Zealand.
Not everyone sees this first flight as a breakthrough. Wired covers some of the backlash
; some environmentalists have called the flight a publicity stunt saying that Virgin is not interested in doing anything substantial toward reducing the airline industry's carbon footprint. Also, there is a growing controversy regarding the environmental benefits of biofuels since using these crops for fuel will drive up food costs and contribute to deforestation. Luckily Branson's got another trick up his sleeve. They are looking at algae as the next biofuel.