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Finnair flies on biofuel for first time

Finnair's biofuel debut points to a forward-thinking approach to sustainability by both the airline and Airbus

Finnair has flown the world’s longest commercial flight to date using biofuel and in the next few weeks will fly a series of four flights using biofuel in both engines of its aircraft.

The company is keen to find an ecologically, financially and socially sustainable fuel solution and this is its first step towards more sustainable flying.

“Biofuel use is still not financially sustainable, because biofuel is more expensive than ordinary aviation fuel and no large-scale production or distribution has yet been established. Finnair, moreover, does not receive any kind of financial support to use biofuel, unlike some other airlines,” says Finnair’s Vice President Sustainable Development Kati Ihamäki.

Most of the environmental impact of flying arises from engine emissions, so investment on research into alternative fuels is a natural way to seek to reduce environmental loading.

The term biofuel means a fuel made from a renewable, organic raw material. The plants used in its manufacture bind carbon dioxide, which is released back into the atmosphere when the biofuel is burned.

In its first biofuel flights, Finnair used in both engines of its aircraft SkyNRG biofuel manufactured from recycled biomass. The fuel mixture used is half biofuel and half ordinary aviation fuel. The SkyNRG biofuel used by Finnair is manufactured from cooking oil recycled from restaurants.

SkyNRG biofuel has been exhaustively researched and it fulfils all of the quality and safety requirements set for jet fuel. The fuel mixture used is certified in the same class as ordinary aviation fuel.

Finnair’s first biofuel flight, from Amsterdam to Helsinki on Wednesday, operated with an Airbus A319 aircraft.

“Our sector’s goal is to find sustainable biofuel solutions so we do not compete with food, land nor water and these Finnair flights are a step in that direction.” said Andrea Debbane, Airbus head of Environmental Affairs. “Airbus is at the forefront in helping to speed up the commercialisation of biofuels for aviation and these latest passenger flights are proof that we have already come a long way.”