Air travel is often cited as one of the largest contributors to global warming. There is a significant amount of fuel burned on any given flight, and there is also the impact of the contrails (link 1, link 2) and the various auxiliary vehicles associated with air travel (buses, tugs, baggage carts, etc.). Since the odds of a solar-powered commercial airplane are pretty low, looking at other options for lowering the impact of the flight has become a hot topic in the industry.
Sir Richard Branson, President of Virgin Atlantic, has vowed to spend all of the profits from his travel groups searching for ways to reduce the carbon footprint of air travel. A significant step in that direction was taken today, when a Virgin Atlantic 747 flew from London to Amsterdam using biofuels in one of its four fuel tanks rather than Jet A. The hopefully clean fuel is a mixture of coconut and babassu oils. The flight had a number of engineers on board to review the data and check to see if it actually did burn cleaner as well as what the efficiency of the fuel mix is. Burning 10% cleaner but using 20% more doesn’t help so much, it turns out.
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