JetBlue Pushes for Greater Renewable Jet Fuel Use With Latest Airbus A321

Sep 19, 2018

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Just days after Alaska Airlines inked an agreement with Neste to spearhead renewable fuel use across the airline industry, in comes JetBlue with a delivery flight that Mother Earth herself is smiling on. The airline received its newest, shiniest A321 from Airbus’ US A320 family production facility in Mobile, Alabama on Wednesday. That delivery flight was JetBlue’s first-ever flight powered by renewable jet fuel, with Thursday’s ferry flight slated to be number two. The fuel for these flights, provided by Airbus and certified by Air BP, consists of 15.5% renewable jet fuel blended with traditional jet fuel.

Guzzling Green

Your friends will soon be able to help get you closer to JetBlue Mint. Photo by Benji Stawski.
Greener flights are ahead for those flying in JetBlue’s Mint cabin. (Photo by Benji Stawsk / The Points Guy)

An additional four A321 aircraft will be delivered to JetBlue from Airbus’ US facility by the end of 2018, with the entire lot to be fueled with renewable jet fuel. Renewable jet fuel is chemically equivalent to conventional jet-A fuel, and has been approved as safe for use by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). During a press conference in Alabama to announce the news, Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue’s director of sustainability & environmental social governance, assured the crowd that this fuel does not require anything different from an aircraft to be used.

“There are zero modifications necessary throughout the engine system,” Mendelsohn said. “That’s the brilliant and exciting thing about this. It’s incredibly exciting that we’re on the cusp of having airplanes made in America, using US-based renewable jet fuel. We believe it’s important to the customer, and we know it’s important to JetBlue.”

She also affirmed that the FAA currently has blending limits in place, and with renewable jet fuel, JetBlue is “one step closer to moving the 35 million passengers it carries each year with up to a 60% lower carbon footprint.” With an aviation industry-wide goal to cap net greenhouse gas growth from 2020 onward, renewable jet fuel is a key aspect of JetBlue’s emissions reduction strategy. In 2016, JetBlue signed a deal and made an offtake agreement with SJ Preston for renewable jet fuel at New York’s JFK airport.

Robin Hayes, JetBlue’s CEO, feels that Wednesday’s move could push the entire industry forward. “Renewable jet fuel affirms JetBlue’s belief that we can help define our industry’s future path,” Hayes said. “Our goal is to serve as a market-maker for renewable jet fuel, creating demand and therefore supporting supply. We’re working closely with Airbus to set up infrastructure for more options in the southeast region.”

Building the Supply Chain

Following the deliveries in the US to JetBlue, Airbus will determine the next steps toward offering this option to more customers taking aircraft deliveries from Mobile. Longer term, Airbus envisions supporting industrial production of sustainable fuels for the entire aviation industry, across the US.

Daryl Taylor, vice president & general manager – Airbus US Manufacturing Facility, was also onsite for the reveal. “These five deliveries are just the beginning of a very bright future,” he said. “Airbus has a strong commitment to make aviation sustainable, and as part of this, we have a long-term commitment to deliver every aircraft built in Alabama with 15.5% blended renewable jet fuel.” He also alluded to a wealth of economic growth opportunities for the entire southeast, noting that farmers and refineries needed to pump an ever-increasing amount of this fuel into various pipelines would create excellent job opportunities.

By all accounts, it appears as if the renewable jet fuel trumpeted today is ready for primetime, with a few minor hurdles to hop: logistics, supply and cost. When asked what it’d take for this to see widespread use, JetBlue’s Mendelsohn replied: “It’s a matter of getting more fuel made here in the US and in the pipeline.” According to Frederic Eychenne, head of new energies at Airbus, it has already been used in some 150 commercial flights. “Our goal is to source sustainable fuels in the southeastern United States,” Eychenne added. “It is an opportunity to work closely with local stakeholders to scale-up production and the commercialization of sustainable aviation fuels in the region.”

Featured image courtesy of JetBlue.

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