Hainan Airlines biofuels 787

Hainan Airlines Completes First Transcontinental Biofuels Flight

The 13-hour Boeing 787 flight between China and the U.S. follows two years after the first domestic biofuels flight.

When a Hainan Airlines Boeing 787 landed Nov. 21 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, it marked its successful first international biofuels flight. 

The GEnx engines on the 13-hour flight, HU497, between Beijing and Chicago, were powered mix of jet fuel and a biofuel derived from used cooking oil.

Hainan Airlines President Sun Jianfeng, who was captain of the flight, said the airline’s first biofuel-powered flight occurred in 2015 between Shanghai and Beijing. This domestic flight and the transcontinental flight on Nov. 21 used the same fuel developed by Sinopec, a Beijing-based petrochemical company.

“We don’t need further tests,” to fly more biofuel flights, Sun said. “We want them to become the normal flight,” he added.

Hainan Airlines does not have a firm date for when it hopes to regularly use biofuels. “It depends on how many biofuels can be provided,” as well as their costs, Sun said. So far, the airline has just used the one biofuel.

In addition to using greener fuels, Hainan is saving fuel costs by optimizing flight routes and investing in new aircraft. Sun said the 787 is delivering 20% fuel savings.

Lindsay Bjerregaard/Aviation Week

Hainan Airlines President Sun Jianfeng and Darrin Morgan, Boeing's sustainable biofuel strategy director, flanked by Hainan Airlines flight attendants, at Chicao O'Hare on Nov. 21.

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