Two U.S. Airlines Make First Biofuel Flights

United, Alaska Airways launch serious biofuel initiatives.

United 737

United 737

United Airlines 737

Two U.S. airlines this week flew commercial flights powered by biofuel blends, continuing a trend that not only has raised the profile of renewable fuel sources but also appears to be gaining real traction with commercial carriers.

United Airlines flew its first biofuel-powered commercial flight from Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport to Chicago O’Hare on Monday. The Boeing 737-800 involved in the trial was powered by a blend of 60-percent petroleum-based jet fuel and 40-percent algae-derived biofuel. The airline said it has signed a letter of intent with biofuel maker Solazyme to purchase 20 million gallons of the algae fuel per year by 2014.

Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines flew two biofuel-powered flights from Seattle to Portland and Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. These will be the first of 75 planned biofuel flights by Alaska and its sister carrier, Horizon Air, among the three cities over the next few weeks.

Alaska Air Group’s fleet of Boeing 737s and Bombardier Q400s will be powered by 80-percent standard jet fuel and 20-percent biofuel made from used cooking oil, the company said. Supplied by SkyNRG, an aviation biofuels broker, and produced by Dynamic Fuels, the waste-oil fuel is as “cost-effective, safe and efficient as petroleum fuel,” the company said.