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Houston is Site for First Commercial
Biofuel Flight in U.S.

November 28, 2011

  © Houston Airport System
  The fuel used to power the Boeing 737-800 aircraft was also refined in Houston.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport once again provided the backdrop for a major advancement in the use of eco-friendly fuel sources, as United Airlines operated the first commercial flight powered by advanced biofuels.

The flight, from Houston to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, marked the first time that an airline had flown passengers using a blend of advanced biofuel and traditional petroleum-derived jet juel.

The flight marks the second time that United Airlines has chosen Houston as the site to advance its biofuel program, operating a demonstration flight powered by algae and jatropha plants in 2009. 

“The City of Houston plays a key role within the energy industry and Bush Airport serves as the largest hub for the largest airline in the world: United Airlines,” says Houston Airport System director Mario C. Diaz. “So, it makes perfect sense that this type of pioneering flight would take place in Houston and we are extremely proud to play a role in helping to move the industry forward in a positive manner.”

The fuel used to power the Boeing 737-800 aircraft on November 7 was also refined in Houston, marking a collaborative effort between two companies, Solazyme and Honeywell’s UOP. The plane’s departure was marked by a celebration on the ground in Houston, but other than the presence of key leaders within the United Airlines team, nothing was noticeably different for passengers on the Chicago bound flight.

“United is taking a significant step forward to advance the use of environmentally responsible and cost-efficient alternative fuels,” said Pete McDonald, United’s executive vice president and chief operations officer. “Sustainable biofuels, produced on a large scale at an economically viable price, can one day play a meaningful role in powering everyone’s trip on an airline.”

Houston is also playing a key role in the airline’s future use of the new fuel efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The airline’s first scheduled route using the state-of-the-art aircraft is a frequency between Houston and Auckland, New Zealand. 
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