Alaska Airlines Flies First Commercial Jet Fueled By Trees

Alaska Airlines flew a bit greener yesterday, powering up one of its jets with a special biofuel made from trees and flying from Seattle to Washington, D.C.

The airline claims it was the first commercial flight using “renewable, alternative jet fuel made from forest residuals,” limbs and branches leftover from harvesting managed forests.

The demonstration flight took off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Monday and landed at Reagan National Airport in D.C., fueled with a 20% blend of sustainable aviation fuel, which the airline says is “chemically indistinguishable from regular jet A fuel.”

Alaska Airlines teamed up with the Washington State University-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) to develop the fuel, which it says is the first of its kind.

“This latest milestone in Alaska’s efforts to promote sustainable biofuels is especially exciting since it is uniquely sourced from the forest residuals in the Pacific Northwest,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ senior vice president of communications and external relations. “NARA’s accomplishments and the investment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide another key in helping Alaska Airlines and the aviation industry reduce its carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels.”

Flying just one plane for one flight on the fuel doesn’t have much impact on the airline’s greenhouse gas emissions all told, but if it could replace 20% of its entire fuel supply at Sea-Tac Airport, Alaska Airlines says it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 142,000 metric tons of CO2 — roughly equivalent to taking 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road for a year.

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