The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has launched a series of connecting flights powered by sustainable alternative fuels in support of its Rio+20 global initiative, 'Flightpath to a Sustainable Future'.
With backing from the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), the initiative was also joined by an Azul Airlines and Embraer biofuel test flight, powered by a sugar cane blend, in addition to another biofuel flight from Europe.
According to ICAO, the airlines participating in the initiative include Porter Airlines, Air Canada and Aeroméxico; as well as GOL, which will operate Bombardier, Airbus and Boeing produced aircraft powered by biofuel blends on routes from Montréal to Rio de Janeiro.
ICAO secretary general Raymond Benjamin said: "This is truly a world-first series of flights, and one which demonstrates that the whole air transport sector is working together to make significant advances across a range of sustainability issues, so that it can continue to fulfil its role as a catalyst for economic and social development, while reducing its impact on the environment."
ICAO Council president Roberto Kobeh González added that such a collaborative enterprise demonstrated that sustainable biofuels are now a reality.
"From camelina to used cooking oil or jatropha, advanced alternative fuels help save significant amounts of CO2 emissions, while not competing for land or water with food crops," Gonzalez added.
The availability of aviation biofuel for airlines is currently lacking; although it is expected to receive a boost with assistance from governments, which will allow producers to supply the required quantities at a reduced price over traditional jet fuel.
ATAG executive director Paul Steele said that aviation was a key provider of economic growth and social development, which currently supports 56.6 million jobs and more than $2.2 trillion of global GDP.
"We need governments to step up and help craft the sustainable future we all want," Steele added.
Image: ICAO secretary general Raymond Benjamin during the launch of 'Flightpath to a Sustainable Future' the ICAO Rio+20 Global Initiative. Photo: courtesy of International Civil Aviation Organization.