SpiceJet operates India's first biofuel-driven flight
27 August 2018
Budget carrier SpiceJet on Monday successfully operated India’s first biofuel-powered flight that aims to reduce costs of air travel by replacing costly aviation turbine fuel (ATF).
SpiceJet used a concoction of bio-fuel mixed with aviation turbine fuel to power a Q400 flight with a carrying capacity of 70 passengers operated on Monday.
The flight, operated from Dehradun to Delhi, was received by the key cabinet ministers and airline’s top management at the Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 2.
The biofuel is made partially from renewable resources such as agricultural waste, non-edible oils and bio-degradable fractions of industrial and municipal wastes, SpiceJet said. Biofuel flights could make air travel cleaner and more efficient, thus drastically reducing the cost of airline operations by reducing the dependency on aviation turbine fuel.
SpiceJet's biofuel is a mix of the oil extracted from the seeds of Jatropha plant and aviation turbine fuel, the airline said. Five hundred farmer families in Chhattisgarh are involved in the production of the partially-refined biofuel used in today's flight.
The biofuel, developed by Dehradun-based Indian Institute of Petroleum, was rigorously tested to ensure flight safety. The biofuel-driven flight comes at a time when spiralling aviation fuel price has strained the finances of domestic airlines.
While twenty five per cent of the right engine of the aircraft will have the biofuel mix, the left engine will run on aviation turbine fuel. The efficiency of the engine running on biofuel is expected to be slightly higher than that of the other engine.
"It has the potential to reduce our dependence on traditional aviation fuel by up to 50 per cent on every flight and bring down fares," SpiceJet chairman and managing director Ajay Singh.
If today's test brings success, India could join a select few countries such as USA and Australia who have had biofuel-operated commercial aircraft.
Around 20 people, including officials from aviation regulator DGCA and SpiceJet, were in the test flight. The duration of the flight was around 25 minutes, according to an airline executive.
Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Suresh Prabhu, Dharmendra Pradhan, Dr Harsh Vardhan and Jayant Sinha were at the Delhi airport when the flight landed.
India is expected to become world’s third-biggest aviation market by 2025 on the back of a domestic-travel boom. But the huge costs of aviation fuel and the fierce competition threatens to derail the market.
The government has introduced a new policy that encourages bio fuel production from non-food feedstock such as solid and industrial waste and biomass.