Calling it a "historic milestone for the aviation and sustainable energy industries," Canada's National Research Council has conducted what it says is the world's first civilian flight using 100 percent biofuel. Perhaps as a measure of confidence in the fuel, made from oilseeds grown in Saskatchewan, NRC Chief Pilot Tim Leslie conducted the Oct. 29 flight in NRC's Falcon 20 over the nation's capital of Ottawa, Ontario. "We have been working hard with our partners for many months, and it is most rewarding to see it all come together," Leslie said. "It is truly inspiring to take this step towards an eco-friendly future!" NRC is a government agency and it worked with private enterprises, including Agrisoma Bioscience Inc., which is now making commercial quantities of biofuel based on the seed of the cold-, heat- and drought-tolerant Carinata, or Ethiopian Mustard plant. The plant, which is related to canola, thrives on marginal farmland not suited to agricultural crops.
The oil from the plant is unpalatable for food use because it contains high levels of compounds that happen to make it ideal as a fossil fuel substitute. In addition to being a renewable resource, Carinata seed oil is believed to create fewer emissions, something the NRC also tested in real time. Following Leslie's Falcon was NRC's T-33 equipped with sniffer pods that sampled the exhaust plume of the business jet. The data collected by the antique fighter jet will be analyzed by NRC to see if the emissions theory is correct.