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Virgin Plans World First Biofuel Flight in February

British airline Virgin Atlantic said on Monday it would run the world's first commercial jet flight powered by biofuel between London Heathrow and Amsterdam next month.

The Boeing 747 will fly without passengers ten months earlier than initially planned as part of efforts by Virgin, Boeing and GE Aviation (GE is the parent company of CNBC)to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation.

"This fuel has never been in the air before on a commercial plane, although it's been tested in engines on the ground in altitude conditions," said a Virgin spokesman.

"It's a sustainable fuel, so you don't have to knock down forests to get it," he added.

Virgin declined to give further details of the source of the fuel, but Boeing has previously been looking at algae as a biofuel source.

Boeing has calculated that powering the world's aircraft fleet in 2004 with pure biofuel from soybeans would have required enough soybean fields to cover Europe.

But using algae is over 150 times more efficient and the process could power the world aircraft fleet using 35 square kilometers of algae ponds -- about the size of Belgium.

The Virgin flight is likely to use a blend of biofuel with traditional jet fuel, gaining knowledge of the CO2 savings and commercial viability.

"The flight will give our engineers and those at Boeing and GE vital learnings for the passenger flights of the future," said Virgin's Richard Branson.

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