Biofuel transported passengers surely and more sustainably

Finnair’s first biofuel fuel flight, AY846 from Amsterdam to Helsinki, landed on schedule  at 22.10 on Wednesday July 20, at Helsinki-Vantaa. Before take-off, Captain Jarkko Rosti wished passengers welcome to the world’s longest biofuel flight to date.

Finnair’s aircraft engines were inscribed with a message of sustainable fuel

Finnair’s aircraft engines were inscribed with a message of sustainable fuel

After arriving from Helsinki to Amsterdam, the Finnair Airbus A320 aircraft was refuelled for the first time with biofuel, half of which consisted of fuel made from recycled cooking and half of ordinary aviation fuel. Powered by biofuel, the aircraft took off from Schiphol Airport towards Helsinki.

Both Captain Rosti and Purser Satu Leivo explained in announcements to passengers that this was Finnair’s first biofuel flight. The cabin crew also distributed to passengers an information pack “Join us on a journey towards sustainable flying”, which gives further information about biofuel and sustainable flying. Flight personnel performed their special task commendably and with pride.

The passengers responded with enthusiasm to the historic flight. A member of a group from Hong Kong onboard the aircraft was inspired to enquire more about biofuel and it transpired that the woman was a journalist. There were also media representatives from Finland on the flight. In addition, the biofuel flight attracted the attention of the media in the UK, India and the Netherlands.

Finnair’s Vice President Sustainable Development Kati Ihamäkiwas also among the flight passengers. According to Kati, the biofuel flight was an important step forward. There is still a long way to go before biofuel is used regularly, but investments are currently boosting the development of biofuels.

Finnair biofuel refuelling

The Finnair aircraft being refuelled with biofuel at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport

In its first biofuel flights, Finnair is using in both engines of its aircraft SkyNRG biofuel manufactured from recycled biomass. The fuel mix used is half biofuel and half ordinary aviation fuel. The biofuel is manufactured from cooking oil recycled from restaurants.

Biofuels are still expensive. At more than double the price of ordinary aviation fuel, they are still unsustainable for airlines. Some other companies have received financial support from their governments, for example, to use biofuels. Airbus’ Alternative Fuel Manager Ross Walker, who was a guest speaker at Finnair’s press conference, considered the Finnair flight to be a significant step in the right direction. Airbus is also working to promote the commercial introduction of biofuels.

The production and distribution of biofuels must be developed further. For Finnair, it is important to find an ecologically, financially and socially sustainable fuel solution. The product now being used, manufactured from recycled cooking oil, fulfils the criteria of ecological and social sustainability, but it is still a financially unfeasible solution for permanent use. The wider-scale use of biofuel will also require greater volumes than production is currently able to provide. The biomass cannot consist, for example, of cultivated plants that take space away from food production or cause deforestation. It would also be ideal to find local solutions so that it is unnecessary to transport biofuel or its raw material long distances.

Irrespective of biofuel, Finnair has already committed itself to reducing its emissions by 41% per seat from 1999 to 2017. Much has already been achieved, because emissions have been reduced by 21% per seat between 1999 and 2009. These ambitious, but realistic, targets will be implemented through fleet modernisations and operational measures, such as Continuous Descent Approach (CDA) landings and influencing the weight of aircraft. Through biofuels and, for example, implementing the Single European Sky, significantly greater emissions reductions can still be achieved.

Join us on a journey towards sustainable flying!

Maria Mroue
Communications Director