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The Japan Airlines Sky Eco livery on a 777-300 (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Japan Airlines Operates First Flight With All-Japanese Constructed Alternative Fuel

Japan Airlines continues its well-documented push for the future of aviation fuel as the airline has flown its first flight using a new fuel type that is unique in using recycled cotton material. The fuel, made with a blend of clothing and kerosene was utilized onboard JL319 which departed Tokyo-Haneda at 1:00 pm JST for a two-hour flight to Fukuoka. The flight was made using the traditional aircraft for the route, a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

For JAL, the quest to find alternative fuel stemmed from a project dating back to 2018. The airline launched a clothing converting project alongside the Green Earth Institute Co. Ltd. and the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for Earth (RITE). In the project, the Green Earth Institute would provide technical support for over 50 Japanese companies that took hold of 250,000 discarded pieces of clothing and turn them over to begin the fuel conversion. The transformation would be done by RITE, who was able to produce their first sample of the greener aviation grade fuel in March 2020. In all, the entire process would be contained inside Japan, keeping the country as tied to the environment push as the airline and is the first 100% Japanese made alternative fuel.

The new fuel project continues a long string of environmentally-focused project that the flag carrier of Japan has invested in over the years. The airline is recognized as an Eco-First company in the eyes of the Ministry of the Environment in its home nation and a supporting member of the United States Decade of Biodiversity.

Of the projects the airline has taken part in, the first major milestone for the Sustainable Aviation Fuel initiative began in 2009. Carrier was the first airline to use alternative fuels in Asia including non-edible feedstocks and would go on to create other SAF flights in 2017 between Chicago O’Hare and Tokyo-Narita and twice in 2019, including the inaugural delivery of the Airbus A350 from Toulouse, France to Tokyo-Haneda.

While the push has always been to keep the Japanese as involved as possible in these processes, the airline has turned to outside help to develop new aviation grade blends. Japan Airlines strategically agreed with the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport and Urban Development to tap United States-based Fulcrum BioEnergy of California to work on a processing plant to turn normal landfill loads into sustainable aviation fuel.

The first plant, based in Nevada, is still under construction according to the airline with an opening date to be expected in the near future. The project has already been pushed further, with a second location in Indiana being pursued. JAL Group says that the goal is to have sustainable fuel plants in North America and rely on these plants for fuel on Japanese going long-haul flights.

Japan Airlines has not announced any future plans for the clothing based alternative fuel after completing the first flight. With further plans to be announced in the future as the airlines continue to invest in future fuel options for its operations.

Ian McMurtry
Ian McMurtry
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