By Prarthana Mitra
India’s first biofuel-powered flight that aims to reduce costs of air travel by replacing the costly aviation turbine fuel was tested successfully on Monday.
A 72-seater SpiceJet airplane, partially powered by biojet fuel, took off from Dehradun and landed successfully at the Delhi terminus in the evening, marking the first such instance in the history of Indian aviation.
— CNBC-TV18 News (@CNBCTV18News) August 27, 2018
Paving the way for cleaner and cheaper air travel
According to the airline and Indian Institute of Petroleum, biofuel can not only replace expensive aviation turbine fuel, but also drastically reduce the cost of air travel and airline operations, since the fuel is sourced from renewable resources such as non-edible agricultural waste, and biodegradable industrial waste.
The fuel used by SpiceJet for Monday’s trial flight, for example, was extracted from municipal and agricultural wastes collected by 500 families of farmers in rural Chhattisgarh. The partially-refined fuel is a mix of the oil extracted from the seeds of Jatropha plant and aviation turbine fuel, said the airline.
Developed by Dehradun-based CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum, the biojet fuel was used in conjuction with petroleum-based turbine fuel after rigorous tests to ensure flight safety. According to NDTV, 25 percent of the right engine of the aircraft ran on the biofuel mix, while the left engine was filled with aviation turbine fuel.
The positive results will help boost the use of biofuel more widely and reduce dependency on conventional fossil fuel by phasing it out. Biofuel is also said to be a little more efficient than turbine oil.
— Rohan Yadav (@rohanyadavTOI) August 27, 2018
The greenest flight
The SpiceJet Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft was flagged off by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat from Dehradun’s Jolly Grant airport in the afternoon. Around 20 passengers, including representatives of Directorate General of Civil Aviation and SpiceJet, were onboard the 25-minute flight. They were received at the Delhi airport by Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, Suresh Prabhu, Dharmendra Pradhan, Dr Harsh Vardhan and Jayant Sinha.
Landmark day for our aviation sector as today our country too is included amongst the club of nations who have #Biofuel operated commercial aircrafts,after the successful fly of spicejet fligt using fuel made from Jatropha crop.A revolutionary move towards sustainable development
— Arun Singh (@ArunSinghbjp) August 27, 2018
Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said, “We want to increase the use of biofuel in the country so that there is reduction in green house gas emission and import of petroleum. We will make sure that more and more airlines start the use of biofuel.”
The success story comes at a time when the unabated rise in aviation fuel is taking a financial toll on a lot of domestic airlines, and in the run-up to the centre’s eco-friendly aviation action plan. With Monday’s positive trial run, India may soon join the league of a select few countries like USA and Australia, in launching large-scale biofuel-powered commercial airline operations.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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