Mon, Mar 17, 2008
Tug-Taxi Program Cancelled; Biofuel Flights Criticized
Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic is known for his flair for
promotion. The airline has launched a series of green initiatives
designed to position itself as environmentally conscious --
including a proposal to tow airliners to "starting grids" closer to
their takeoff positions to reduce fuel burned and greenhouse gases
produced during taxiing, and a recent test flight during which a
Virgin 747 burned a blend of biofuels and traditional,
petroleum-based jet fuel to reduce emissions.
Environmental groups targeting aviation accuse Branson and the
airline of "green-washing," or using stunts with little real
environmental value to convince consumers to fly more, and choose
Virgin when they do.
The company continues with its plans for a number of proving
flights for use of biofuels... but Virgin now admits it conducted
only six flights using 747s towed to takeoff positions, after tests
by Boeing showed the practice would weaken the front landing gear,
and shorten its lifespan.
No airport is currently planning to build "starting grids," and
the airline has officially put the program on hold.
The Times of London reports the much-publicized biofuel test flight of a
747 using a biofuel blend actually burned only five
percent biofuel, and 95 percent Jet-A. Virgin had claimed to be
"the first airline in the world to fly on renewable fuel."
The Times also reports an offer from Virgin to provide
passengers with an express train ticket to London Heathrow Airport
to reduce automobile use had been utilized by only one percent of
The paper says a Virgin spokesman defended the efforts. "In a
few years’ time there will be significant change."
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