Alaska Airlines flight runs on fuel powered by wood


Airplane fuel made from wood? We’ve been following the story closely over several years, including this post last year, and so we are especially happy to report that it happened: an Alaska Airlines flight last week became the first commercial flight to ever run on wood.

An Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Washington, D.C., on Monday morning was powered with a jet-fuel blend containing 20 percent renewable biofuel made from Pacific Northwest forest residuals — the limbs and branches that remain after the harvesting of managed forests.

Billed as the first commercial flight running partly on wood, the alternative jet fuel was produced through the research efforts of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA). Led by Washington State University, the group aims to build a sustainable supply chain for aviation biofuel using the leavings from logging operations.

The wood came from Washington, Oregon and Montana, including forests managed by Weyerhaeuser, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes.

The maiden flight received media coverage from around the world, including USA Today and BBC, as well as widespread local coverage, including the Seattle Times, KOMO and KUOW.

From the WSU press release:

Several elected officials joined the 163 passengers on the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 jet bound for the nation’s capital, including U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-1), U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (WA-8) and U.S. Rep. Denny Heck (WA-10).

“I am proud to see the world’s first biojet fuel made from forest residuals being flown on an Alaska Airlines airplane,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. “The Pacific Northwest continues to be on the cutting edge of new technology that will make airplanes better, safer and more efficient, and I’m thrilled that so many stakeholders came together and that Washington State University has led this important effort.”

One participant was holding out hope for a taste of the holidays, according to the Seattle Times:

Among the passengers on Monday’s flight was Leah Grace, deputy press secretary for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

“As a passenger on this flight, I can confirm it was very pleasant, but unfortunately did not smell like Christmas trees,” Grace tweeted after landing.