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Air New Zealand's Jatropha Test Flight to take place 30 December

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Air New Zealand has confirmed that its test flight powered by a sustainable second-generation biofuel will now take place on 30 December 2008. The flight had originally been planned for 3 December 2008.

The two-hour test flight is scheduled to take off from Auckland airport on Tuesday morning 30 December, with the jatropha biofuel blend powering one of the Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400's Rolls-Royce RB211 engines.

The pilot in command of the test flight is Air New Zealand 747 Fleet Manager Captain Keith Pattie. During the flight Captain Pattie and his crew will undertake a number of fuel tests confirming and measuring the performance of the engine and fuel systems at various altitudes and under a variety of operating conditions.

The test flight is a joint initiative between Air New Zealand, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and UOP, with support from Terasol Energy, as part of commercial aviation's drive for more sustainable air travel for future generations.

Air New Zealand's Chief Pilot and General Manager Airline Operations Captain David Morgan, who will also be onboard the flight, says Air New Zealand and its partners have been non-negotiable about the three criteria any environmentally sustainable fuel must meet for the test flight programme. These are social, technical and commercial.

Firstly, the fuel source must be environmentally sustainable and not compete with existing food resources. The criteria for sourcing the jatropha oil required that the land was neither forest land nor virgin grassland within the previous two decades. The quality of the soil and climate is such that the land is not suitable for the vast majority of food crops. Furthermore, the farms are rain-fed and not mechanically irrigated.

Secondly, the fuel must be a drop-in replacement for traditional jet fuel and technically be at least as good as the product used today. Finally, it should be cost competitive with existing fuel supplies and be readily available.

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