Alaska Pilots Fly Biofuel-Powered Flights

On Wednesday, two Alaska Airlines flights launched what will be a three-week program to operate commercial flights using biofuel. The Alaska Airlines B-737 and a Horizon Q400 departed within minutes of one another, bound from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore., respectively, using a blend of biofuel made from used cooking oil and traditional jet fuel. Over the next few weeks, the Alaska Air Group will fly a total of 75 flights powered by biofuel.

Biofuels, which are made using renewable resources, reduce fossil fuel consumption, increase efficiency, and cut greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining high safety standards, all of which are important for the future of aviation.

“Hopefully what happened this week will demonstrate that there is a real interest and demand for biofuel,” said F/O Paul Stuart, Alaska MEC chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l. “Alaska Airlines has a proud history of innovation and pioneering new technologies. It is exciting, but not surprising to me, that we are at the forefront of a technology that will not only reduce our industry’s carbon footprint, but will make aviation more sustainable into the future.”

“The future of aviation depends on more efficient airplanes. It depends on more efficient operations. It depends on more efficient fuel,” said Billy Glover, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of environmental and aviation policy.

Alaska’s inaugural biofuel flights kicked off Wednesday afternoon with a news conference in the boarding area of Gates C10 and 12 at Sea-Tac Airport. The announcement generated some excitement among passengers awaiting their flights.

“I think it’s terrific,” said Alaska passenger Connie Partoyan, who was flying home to Washington, D.C. “Obviously it’s a good idea, and I’m sure it’s going to catch on with other airlines, too.”

Because biofuel is available only in limited supplies and is much more expensive than traditional jet fuel, the number of biofuel flights that United and Alaska will fly at this time is limited. But those involved in the first biofuel flights say they hope that this demonstrates that there is a demand for such a fuel in the aviation industry.