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KLM Launches First Weekly Transatlantic Flight Using Biofuels

Words by Leon Kaye

Last Thursday, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Flight 642 completed the seven hour and 17 minute flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol using sustainable biofuels. Flight KL642, operated by a Boeing 777-200, will fly every Thursday fueled by recycled cooking oil as part of the Dutch carrier’s goal to have one percent of its flights operate on biofuels by 2015.

For five years, KLM has experimented with various forms of biofuels in order to try to reduce its carbon footprint. First was the attempt to fuel 12 Fokker-50 planes with algae-based biofuel. Bio-kerosene was an experiment a year later, and as many as 200 short hop flights are now powered by a 50-50 blend of kerosene and recycled cooking oil.

The flight on March 8, however, was an exciting development for clean energy within the aviation industry because sustainable biofuel powered that 777-200 across the Atlantic.

The now-weekly flight, possible thanks to the deep-frying of french fries and falafels, was the result of over a year of cooperation between KLM, Schiphol Group, Delta Air Lines and the Port Authority. SkyNRG, which KLM co-founded with ARGOS (North Sea Petroleum) and Spring Associates, distributed the fuel--which the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels recently approved as the first 100 percent-certified renewable jet fuel. KLM’s managers insisted biofuels were only an option if the product did not interfere with biodiversity, local development or any food supplies.

According to KLM’s blog, JFK became the natural choice to host the weekly flight’s launch because of the Schiphol Group’s ownership interest in the airport’s Terminal 4 and the firm’s experience in biofuel tanking. Dynamic Fuels, the company processing the jet fuel, is also based in the United States adding to the ease of operating a flight out of the east coast. As of now, only the JFK-Amsterdam flight will run on biofuels weekly--no other long flights have been added to the mix yet, although the return flight from Amsterdam last week on the same place was also a biofuel-powered trip.

So far, the reviews have been positive. But when I asked a KLM employee during an email exchange whether the runway at JFK smelled like french fries, I received a prompt “no” . . . but there is a slight scent during the airplane’s fueling.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable BrandsInhabitat and Earth911. Most recently he explored children’s health issues in India with the International Reporting Project. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

[Image credit: KLM]

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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