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SpiceJet operates India’s first biofuel-powered flight

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No-frills airline SpiceJet recently operated India’s first test flight powered by biojet fuel, marking a new chapter in the fast-growing domestic aviation sector. The nearly 45-minute flight from Dehradun to the national capital was operated with a Bombardier Q400 aircraft, partially powered by biojet fuel made from Jatropha plant, according to an airline official. The flight landed at around 1150 hours. With the test flight, India has become one of the few countries and probably the first among the developing nations to use biofuel for flying planes. SpiceJet today said it has successfully operated “India’s first ever biojet fuel flight”.

It also comes at a time when the airline industry is grappling with spiralling fuel prices that are impacting their profitability. However, use of biofuel for regular flights would take some time. For the test flight, which carried 28 people, including five crew members, the aircraft’s right engine was filled with 75 per cent aviation turbine fuel (ATF) and 25 per cent of biojet fuel, made from Jatropha plant, the airline official said.

The fuel was prepared by the CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP), Dehradun. The institute’s director, Anjan Ray, said around 330 kg of biojet fuel was made for the little over 40-minute flight. Noting that it was a “historic occasion” to operate the test flight, Ajay Singh, chairman and MD, SpiceJet said that India is the first among developing countries to fly flight powered by biojet fuel.

In a release, SpiceJet said the advantage of using biojet fuel as compared to ATF is that it reduces carbon emissions and enhances fuel efficiency. At a function to mark the successful operation of the test flight here, Suresh Prabhu, civil aviation minister said efforts are on to have a consumer-friendly, affordable and environment-friendly aviation sector.

According to global airlines’ body IATA, aviation industry contributes to 2 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions. The IATA has also set out a target for one billion passengers to fly on aircraft using a mix of clean energy and fossil fuels by 2025, the release said. SpiceJet has a fleet of 36 Boeing 737NG and 22 Bombardier Q400 planes. On an average, it operates 412 flights daily.

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