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Continental completes first U.S. commercial biofuel flight

By control on November 7, 2011

United Airlines subsidiary Continental Airlines made history on November 7 by operating the first commercial flight utilizing advanced biofuels in the U.S. This news comes on the heels of United Airlines’ partnership with Solazyme to negotiate the purchase of 20 million gallons of biofuel per year.

Continental Airlines flight 1403 flew from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport powered by a mix of algae-derived biofuel and traditional jet fuel. According to United Airlines Chief Operations Officer Pete McDonald, this flight represents a “significant step forward” in the advancement of cost-efficient and eco-friendly alternative jet fuels.

Air Transport Association of America Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich also cites Continental’s inaugural biofuel flight as a notable feat. “Today, roughly four months since the approval of hydroprocessed renewable fuels in commercial aviation, we are excited to see the deployment of these fuels on a domestic U.S. flight,” he said in a statement.

“ATA member airlines continue to demonstrate leadership in fostering new and environmentally preferred sources of energy to transport people and goods throughout the globe,” Heimlich continued.

Numerous aviation insiders are pointing to United Airlines’ agreement with Solazyme as another act of leadership. United, which signed a letter of intent with Solazyme on the same day as the inaugural flight, could begin purchasing algae-derived biofuel from the San Francisco-based alternative energy manufacturer as early as 2014, a company spokesman revealed.

“Looking at United, a company that understands the sustainability of tomorrow means environmental responsibility today, we see a true pioneer in the future of flight,” Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfson said in a statement. “Solazyme is deeply committed to commercializing our renewable oil production technology."

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