(Chicago, April 30, 2010) -- United Airlines today completed the first flight by a U.S. commercial airline using natural gas synthetic jet fuel, demonstrating United's commitment to the advancement of alternative fuels in commercial aviation using fuel that is safe and approved for use in commercial aircraft.
"This flight confirms our assumptions about how this fuel performs on a commercial aircraft and is the next step in our effort to stimulate competition in the aviation fuel supply chain, promote energy security, environmental benefits, and the creation of green jobs," said Joseph Kolshak, United Airlines senior vice president of operations. "United continues to support the use of alternative fuels, and we urge the U.S. government and the investment community to further support critical energy opportunities."
The engineering validation flight was conducted using certified synthetic jet fuel (RenJet(r)), produced by Rentech, Inc. (NYSE AMEX: RTK) and approved for commercial use, in a 40/60 mix with conventional Jet A fuel in one of two engines on an Airbus 319 aircraft. The aircraft departed Denver International Airport at approximately 8:15 a.m. MDT and climbed to an altitude of 39,000 feet where the onboard team collected data on the performance of the fuel during several maneuvers, including taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, auxiliary power unit start, descent and approach. The fuel, derived from natural gas and converted to liquid fuel, is approved by ASTM International, the international technical standards organization, and is safe for use on passenger flights. It is a drop-in fuel, which means that it can be used in existing engines with no modifications required.
Captain Joseph Burns, United Airlines managing director, Technology and Flight Test, led a team of 19 engineers and observers on board the flight. Results and analysis of the performance and environmental benefits of the synthetic jet fuel and the aircraft are expected within the next 10 days.
Last year, United along with more than 15 other domestic and international passenger and cargo carriers signed Memorandums of Understanding that are intended to serve as a framework for future supply agreements for certified synthetic jet fuel and for jet fuel derived from camelina oil, a next-generation biofuel feedstock.
"Today's engineering validation flight is a significant step forward for the commercial aviation industry," said D. Hunt Ramsbottom, president and CEO of Rentech. "We are proud to collaborate with United Airlines to demonstrate the viability of certified synthetic jet fuel that delivers on performance and safety expectations required by commercial airlines, along with environmental benefits that exceed that of conventional jet fuel."
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