The New York Times reported today that Virgin Atlantic will conduct a test of one of its Boeing 747s using biofuels. The most interesting thing to me is that there seems to have been a lot of thought put into both the sustainability and the business aspects (even though this first step is actually a blend of 20% biofuel and 80% conventional jet fuel).
Sustainability: Virgin spokesman Paul Charles is quoted as saying the company rejected fuels derived from crops like palm oil because of the land that would be needed to cultivate such crops, and that the biofuel production would not compete with food or freshwater resources.
Business: This joint project between Virgin, Boeing, and GE Aviation splits the costs of innovation among several companies, and had smart business requirements. For example, the test plane will use one of GE Aviation’s CF6 engines as a “drop-in solution,” meaning the use of biofuel requires no modification, and will not affect the engine’s performance or range.
I recently read a New Yorker article about Branson and his work with Al Gore to create the Virgin Earth Challenge with its $25 million prize. I’m impressed that he’s so intent on solutions that are market-driven, commercial, and don’t require major lifestyle changes, as I believe that these are the ones that are truly scalable. An excellent article that shows that for Branson, business is very personal. I just wonder whether he’ll consider himself eligible to win his own prize?