On Friday (15 July) SAA and Mango flights on Boeing 737-800s between Johannesburg and Cape Town were the first to operate aircraft using sustainable biofuel flights on the African continent.
The flights used home-grown feedstock as part of Project Solaris, a biofuels project named after the energy tobacco plant used. The nicotine-free, hybridised tobacco plant lends itself to the production of biofuel as the Solaris plant produces small leaves and prodigious flowers and seeds that are crushed to extract a vegetable crude oil.
The biofuel is refined to a high global specification and can be blended with conventional fossil jet fuel and used as a ‘drop in’ fuel. This means that no modifications to the aircraft or engines are required.
The long-term goal of the programme is to operate all flights out of SAA’s hub at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on sustainable biofuels.