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Wed, Apr 25, 2007

Boeing, Virgin Atlantic Joining To Develop Biofuel

Aircraft Fueled by Soybeans?

Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson has entered into a partnership with Boeing to develop a bio-fuel for jet engines... and both parties believe they can fly a 747 with one engine running on biofuel as early as next year.

Normal aircraft movement contributes hundreds of tons of greenhouse gases to the environment. Branson (right) believes he has found the solution.

"The positive effects of biofuel will hopefully reduce or almost get rid of the airlines' contribution to global warming," said Branson.

Branson is joining forces with Boeing and aircraft engine manufacturers to try to turn everything from soybeans to switch-grass into jet fuel, according to WLS-TV Chicago.

Ground testing is scheduled to begin soon. A test flight could actually happen by the end of 2008.

"Passengers ill get from A to B on bio fuels the same way they get from A to B on dirty fuels. The difference is they'll be able to get from A to B without feeling guilty and without damaging the environment," said Branson.

"I think 15 years ago in the car industry people said it was unrealistic. Then with further work on fuel cells, ethanol, renewable sources and you can begin to see a future world out there where dependency is reduced," said Jim McNerney, Boeing chairman.

As Aero-News reported in December 2006, Branson lobbied Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to allow tugs to take planes from their gates to the runway and back at O'Hare. Pilots would only throttle up their engines for takeoff.

The tug system is currently being tested in San Francisco and London Heathrow. O'Hare currently uses tugs to move aircraft from gate to gate or from a terminal to a maintenance hangar.

A spokesperson for the Chicago Aviation Department denied any "serious" discussions about expanding the use of tugs.

"The footprint to the environment around those airports will be something like 90-percent better than it is today, a dramatic improvement. All the noise of those engines running all day will disappear," said Branson.

FMI: www.virgin.com, www.boeing.com

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