Alaska Airlines Flies Coast to Coast Fueled by... Trees?

Josh Kim
November 20, 2016

The biofuel used is chemically indistinguishable from regular commercial jet A fuel, Alaska Airlines said. The harvest residuals used to make fuel for this flight came from forests owned by Weyerhaeuser in Washington and OR, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe in Washington and the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes in Montana.

An Alaska Airlines flight took off from Seattle today and landed at Washington Reagan National Airport in what USDA is calling a "breakthrough in bioenergy".

The alternative jet fuel was produced through the efforts of the Washington State University-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA).

A timber harvest can often leave what's called a "slash pile" of leftovers that are usually burned.

In a statement on Thursday, Alaska Airlines Senior Vice President of Communications Joe Sprague said that were Alaska Airlines to replace all of its fuel with a 20 percent biofuel mixture, it would "be the equivalent of taking 30,000 cars off the highways in the Seattle region". "NARA's accomplishments and the investment of the [USDA] provide another key in helping Alaska Airlines and the aviation industry reduce its carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels".

Alaska Airlines has been a leader in the development biofuel; in June this year it operated two flights using another type of sustainable fuel derived from non-edible corn. While we are very interested in finding a long-term, sustainable aviation biofuel, we don't have any current plans for additional flights using the forest residual biofuel.

American Airlines has returned to Cold Bay to show their gratitude following a flight diversion to the Southwest Alaska community last month.

The fuel, according to the Washington state-based airline, is composed of the limbs and branches left over after the harvesting of managed forests.

NARA partner Gevo, Inc., was the firm behind the conversion of celluloid sugars from wood waste into the renewable substance: isobutanol. It was also free of pollutants commonly contained in jet fuel like a sulphur, he added.

The Pacific Northwest is well-known for its lush forests.

Among the passengers on Monday's flight was Leah Grace, deputy press secretary for U.S. Sen.

Other reports by MyHealthBowl

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