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South African Airways makes first flight using fuel from tobacco

South African Airways completed a flight using jet fuel made from a tobacco plant, its first contribution to the global push to power more air journeys from renewable resources.

SAA used 6,300 liters of bio jet fuel for the one-way trip to Cape Town from Johannesburg, the state-owned carrier said on Friday. The initiative was carried out in conjunction with plane maker Boeing Co. and jet-fuel producer SkyNRG.

“We want to be flying 50 per cent of our airliners using biofuels by 2022,” Acting Chief Executive Officer Musa Zwane told reporters.

SAA’s maiden biofuels flight comes as it battles insolvency and relies on government-guaranteed loans to survive.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday asked parliament to grant an extension for the tabling of SAA’s financials for the year ending March 2015, which are now a year overdue, as the Treasury considers whether to grant further support.

Airlines are examining ways to power more flights from biofuels to limit the environmental impact of aviation and ease dependency on oil. Unprofitable SAA aims to have used 20 million liters of bio-jet fuel by the fourth quarter of 2017, Ian Cruickshank, its head of environmental affairs, told reporters in Cape Town. He said the company is seeking to use 500 million liters by the same time in 2023.