First International Biofuel Flight

February 24, 2008

The BBC reports on the recent biofuel flight from London to Amsterdam.

This is very interesting concept, but as the article notes, the event is easily criticized. Although it isn’t entirely clear, the article seems to imply that the aircraft was entirely powered by its one biofuel engine.

  1. There were no passengers and no luggage weight aboard.
  2. It’s the dead of winter, ideal for combustion and for takeoff.
  3. London to Amsterdam is a short flight, requiring less fuel weight aboard, and less time for fuel gelling.

The media can likely attack on all of those points, at least to make the “stunt” accusation.

One thing we SHOULD have been told is that coconut fuel is rather efficient, both in terms of volume and a per-pound basis. Coconut oil’s energy yield per acre is also rather good.

Here’s a very random abstract on the use of coconut oil to raise the energy density of food given to low birthweight babies.

As for the food supply, Greenpeace’s typical accusation that food prices will be negatively impacted seems to be misplaced. Virgin Atlantic counters by saying that coconut farmland is not used to produce staple food crops. It is worth wondering, however, precisely what land that is.

Biofuel is not an feasible solution to the world’s energy worries. For aviation, however, I have to wonder if it might be useful. The engines powering a jetliner will almost certainly have to be internal combustion; we won’t likely be seeing hybrids either. Although the “hydrogen economy” may be a distant hope, aviation may find itself more interested than Detroit in the prospect of hydrogen fuel. What else is there?