Boeing 747-8F to cross Atlantic on biofuel

In advance of the Paris Air Show, the aviation giant is touting its new freighter's ability to fly using a fuel mixture with 15 percent renewable plant matter.

In this file photo, the first 747-8 freighter takes its initial test flight from Paine Field in Everett, Wash., on February 8, 2010. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Boeing today said one of its 747-8 freighters will be the first commercial jetliner to do a transatlantic flight on "biologically derived fuel."

According to the aviation giant, Boeing's Keith Otsuka and Rick Braun, along with Sten Rossby of Cargolux, will pilot the new plane to the Paris Air Show on Monday using a 15 percent camelina-based biofuel mix. The remainder of the fuel will be traditional Jet-A kerosene.

In a press release, the company described camelina as a plant grown in Montana and processed by Honeywell, and said that the freighter doesn't require any modifications to fly with the special fuel. The 747-8 freighter will be shown at the Paris Air Show, which I'll be covering as part of my Road Trip 2011 project, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Clearly, Boeing sees a competitive advantage in being able to fly with a partly renewable fuel. While 85 percent will still be a standard fuel, even that 15 percent could, in theory, give carriers who fly the freighter the ability to position themselves against what they might say are less environmentally friendly cargo outfits. But of course, this is all experimental for now, and it's not yet known how much such fuels will cost, nor what the carbon impact to produce them will be.

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