Branson Says Virgin Airways to Test Bio-Fuels Jet Next Year

Richard Branson
Tina Fineberg
Richard Branson

Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Group, told CNBC’s "Morning Call" that Virgin Atlantic Airways plans to test bio-fuels next year in an effort to reduce carbon emissions and increase efficiency.

“It would be wonderful if we could change the color of Virgin from red to green,” Branson told CNBC’s Phil LeBeau during an interview in Chicago.

Boeing and General Electric are jointly developing a new engine designed to run on bio-fuel. GE is the parent company of CNBC.

Branson said Virgin Atlantic’s purchase of 15 Boeing 787 Dreamliners valued at $2.8 billion will mean a quieter, more fuel-efficient ride for passengers while emitting less carbon pollutants.

Branson said the new Boeing planes are 30% more efficient than Virgin Atlantic’s current fleet and about 6% quieter on landing, takeoff and in flight.

Branson said his company is investing in bio-fuels and building plants all over the world in an effort to move away from carbon-based fuel.

W. James McNerney, Jr., chief executive officer of Boeing, said the use of bio-fuels in the airline industry is more than just a dream, but noted, “We’re closer to the beginning than the end.”

He said response to the new Dreamliner has been strong.

“With more than a year to go before we introduce the (Dreamliner), we’ve had more orders than we’ve had for any airplane in our history,” McNerney said." “We’re very proud of that and the impact the technology is having on airlines and their desire to work with us. The Virgin order is huge.”