KLM kicks of biofuel-fueled flight pilot program

By Erin Voegele | March 11, 2013

On March 8 a flight fueled by a biofuel blend departed JFK International Airport in New York headed for Schiphol Amsterdam Airport in the Netherlands. The flight marked the start of a 25-week pilot program undertaken by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, in partnership with the Schiphol Group, Delta Air Lines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

According to information released by KLM, the initial American biofuel flight in the series was a return flight as part of a round trip from Amsterdam to New York and back to Amsterdam. For the remainder of the 25-week pilot program, a biofuel blend will be used to KLM Flight 642 departing JFK on Thursdays.

Biofuel for the flights is being sourced from SkyNRG, a company founded by KLM in 2009 in cooperation with North Sea Group and Spring Associates.  The Port Authority’s role in the program includes on-the-ground facilitation and in-kind contributions of fueling services. It has also dedicated two 10,000 gallon refuelers to the operation.

“I am proud that KLM is once again demonstrating its leading role in developing sustainable biofuel. For eight years in a row, KLM, together with Air France, has been sector leader on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Alongside this biofuel series, we are starting a study to further identify sustainability gains in fuel, weight and carbon dioxide reduction throughout the entire flight process. We are striving to achieve the ‘optimal flight’ together with research institutes, suppliers, airports, and air traffic control. We are combining new and existing technology, processes, and efficiency initiatives to achieve this,” said Camiel Eurlings, KLM managing director, noting that cooperation is a priority.

Ed Bastian, president of Delta Air Lines, said that his company recognizes the business value in addressing environmental issues like climate change. “The potential for biofuel to contribute to our climate change strategy could be quite significant once issues of supply and cost are addressed,” he said. “This pilot program is a step in the right direction.”

On March 7, the day before the pilot-program’s first test flight took place, SkyNRG announced it is the first biofuel operator worldwide to earn Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels certification for its entire supply chain. According to RSB, SkyNRG is currently the only fuel operator in the world that can deliver certified renewable jet fuel into wing at any airport in the world.

 “We are pleased that a full supply chain for RSB certified jet fuel is now available for regular use in commercial aviation,” said Barbara Bramble, chair of the board of the RSB and head of the International Climate and Energy Program at the National Wildlife Federation. “Congratulations to SkyNRG for achieving certification under the RSB system, which NWF believes provides the best assurance of biofuels’ sustainability.  SkyNRG can now assist airlines around the world to fulfill their pledges to reduce carbon emissions while meeting environmental and social safeguards.”

To kick off the launch of the pilot program in Amsterdam, the country’s Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp officially opened the Green Space at Schiphol’s Pier E. The Green Space offers an impression of the various sustainable initiatives being undertaken by Schiphol and KLM.

“We have achieved our objective to be carbon neutral with respect to our own activities. But our responsibility does not stop at the gates of Schiphol. It is our duty as partners in the aviation industry to stir innovation and to create new solutions which will make aviation more efficient and more sustainable. That is why we support KLM in this pioneering project that will help pave the way for climate-friendly aviation, one of the strategic pillars of our corporate responsibility policy,” said Jos Nijhuis, CEO of Schiphol Group.