Civil unrest in the Middle East has pushed up the price of jet fuel by more than 30 percent since December. In response, airlines have increased ticket prices, and some have announced they will begin grounding older, less-efficient aircraft types. While no one knows for sure how long this spike in prices will last, it has prompted many in the industry to turn their attention back to the promise of biofuel.
Eurocopter might exhibit a hybrid helicopter, using both piston engines and electric motors like a hybrid car, by Heli-Expo 2020. Parent company EADS last year unveiled a helicopter concept that could burn 50 percent less fuel than its traditional equivalent. EADS Innovation Works is devising a way to combine diesel engines, generators, batteries and electric motors.
Airbus, Brazilian carrier TAM Linhas Aéreas and others interested in the feasibility of biofuels for aviation use are working to establish a “bio-kerosene jet-fuel” processing plant in Brazil, aiming to “gradually substitute fossil fuel with biofuel.” Other companies participating include Brazilian renewable energy Curcas and biofuel producer Brasil Ecodiesel, along with AirBP.
Eurocopter and parent company EADS have teamed with Argentina-based BioCombustibles del Chubut (BC) to study the feasibility of building an aviation biofuel factory in Brazil. The three companies signed an agreement in June. The biofuel, made from algae, could be used in Eurocopter’s diesel engines for light helicopters, which are now in the research stage (see AIN, February, page 44).
Sweden is currently outlining a three-year test plan to test a locally developed biofuel in a Gripen, in a scheme that is partly funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In November 2007, Swedish Biofuels entered into an agreement with U.S.
EADS flew the first aircraft powered solely by algae-based biofuel today at the ILA Airshow in Berlin as part of the daily flying display. The Austrian-built Diamond Aircraft DA-42 NG’s two Austro Engine AE300 diesels required only minor adjustment to burn the biofuel, which is supplied by German processor VTS from algae oil provided by Biocombustibles del Chibut in Argentina.
Universal Weather & Aviation has added integrated fuel tankering calculations to its UVflightplanner.com system. The new feature went live at last month’s Ebace show in Geneva and allows operators to decide quickly when and how they should fill tanks with fuel during a trip.
Solar Impulse’s first prototype made its first flight on April 7 in Payerne, Switzerland, paving the way for the first night flight with a solar-powered, manned aircraft this summer. Company CEO André Borschberg and founder Bertrand Piccard are then planning a round-the-world flight, with probably five stopovers, to demonstrate the potential of investing in renewable energies.
In a bid to bolster the market for alternative fuels, two of the world's largest consumers of jet-A have formed a strategic alliance: the U.S. Air Transport Association and the U.S. Department of Defense. According to ATA president James May, environmental considerations and rising prices for petroleum-based fuel motivated the agreement signed last month.
In a move hailed as a significant advance for the bio- and synthetic fuels market, the Air Transport Association (ATA) and the U.S. Department of Defense signed a strategic alliance agreement on Friday, signaling a partnership in the development and deployment of alternative aviation fuels. The two groups, which represent the vast bulk of jet fuel consumers, have a combined thirst of more than 1.5 million barrels a day.