Record-setting flight lands at EIA as part of sustainability challenge

A KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Boeing 787-10 plane arriving at Edmonton International Airport on Saturday May 7, 2022. (CTV News Edmonton)

As part of a challenge involving 17 airlines, a KLM flight powered by 39 per cent sustainable aviation fuel flew non-stop from Amsterdam to Edmonton.

The Sustainable Flight Challenge aims to stage the most sustainable flight possible and raise awareness of sustainability across the aviation sector.

According to the CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the Boeing 787-10 plane flew to Edmonton Saturday with “the largest amount of sustainable aviation fuel ever,” 39 per cent of the total fuel, on a long-haul commercial flight.

“We’ve operated to Edmonton for a couple of years now and we have a very deep and close partnership,” said Pieter Elbers. “While talking to Edmonton airport we discovered we have a lot of the same values, the same ambitions, the same drive to go for sustainable aviation.”

Sustainable fuel creates lower carbon dioxide emissions from planes, this flight also utilized a number of other initiatives to further lower the flight’s carbon footprint.

“As we were getting ready to take off, rather than the engines taking us out to the taxiway, there was a remote vehicle that took us out,” said Tom Ruth, the president and CEO of Edmonton International Airport. “There was the weight of some of the utensils and other things on the plane, they were lighter so that means you’re not burning as much emissions with a lighter plane.

“Even blankets that were on the plane didn’t have plastic on them, which saves about 40 tonnes of plastic for a year.”

Currently, the airline industry accounts for two to three per cent of global CO2 emissions, added Elbers. The price of sustainable fuel is higher than conventional fuel, partially due to the lack of demand for it currently.

“We need to break that cycle. All the airlines, collectively, are embarking on that journey of getting more fuel and I’m very sure that in close cooperation with the fuel providers, we’ll move to a different world going forward,” said Elbers.

“By demonstrating today here that 39 per cent is something that is doable, I believe we are making a big step.”

As part of the challenge, KLM also had a flight going from Amsterdam to Porto, Portugal using the same amount of sustainable aviation fuel.

The results of the challenge will be determined by a panel of six judges, including former Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, with the results being announced at the end of June.

More information on the sustainability initiatives used by EIA and KLM is available on EIA’s website.