KLM begins biofuel-powered transatlantic flights

No, those were not economy-class French fries passengers smelled on their way to Amsterdam on Friday afternoon.

The KLM B777-200 that took off from JFK on March 8 was the first KLM plane to use a fuel blend that includes biofuel, as part of a 25-week pilot project by KLM, supported by Delta Airlines and the New York/New Jersey Port Authority.

The flight marked the beginning of a series of weekly biofuel flights that will travel between JFK and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

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“I am proud that KLM is once again demonstrating its leading role in developing sustainable biofuel,” said Camiel Eurlings, KLM’s Managing Director. “Alongside this biofuel series, we are starting a study to further identify sustainability gains in fuel, weight and carbon dioxide reduction throughout the entire flight process. We are striving to achieve the ‘optimal flight’.”

The fuel used is a combination of second-generation biofuel and jet fuel, supplied by SkyNRG, an aviation biofuel company founded by KLM in 2009. SkyNRG is also the world’s market leader for sustainable kerosene, another fuel used by carriers.

The second-generation biofuel comes from processed frying fat, meaning that it does not take resources that would otherwise be used for food production, which critics of biofuels have said negates its positive impact on the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency has tried to require refiners to use cellulosic biofuels as an alternative to ethanol, which is made out of processed corn.

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The project is yet another indicator of growing worldwide concern about the carbon impact of aviation travel, and as the European Union has discussed possible taxes on airline carbon emissions.