Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Tuesday, 24 April 2007 17:12 UK

Virgin orders 'green' Boeing jets

Richard Branson in the new Boeing 787-9
Air travel is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gases

Virgin Atlantic has ordered 15 of Boeing's fuel-efficient Dreamliner passenger jets - the largest European order to date of the aircraft.

Richard Branson's airline has taken out options on another eight 787 aircraft and purchase rights on a further 20.

The deal could be worth $8bn (3.99bn) with the planes delivered from 2011.

Virgin also revealed plans to fly the first biofuel-powered commercial aircraft, a milestone in the air industry's quest to reduce emissions.

In partnership with US aerospace giant Boeing and engine builder GE Aviation, the inaugural test flight on one of Virgin's 747 jumbo jets is expected to take place next year.


Virgin has yet to make clear what kind of clean fuel technology it intends to use in its "green" maiden voyage.

The move is the latest by Virgin to cut carbon dioxide emitted by its planes and reduce noise emissions.

The airline has been looking into alternatives to traditional taxi-ing procedures at the world's busiest airports and has trialled the towing of planes to take-off areas at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

In addition, last year the Virgin boss pledged profits worth $3bn (1.6bn) over 10 years from his airline and train empire towards renewable energy initiatives.

Boeing says its 787-9, which can carry up to 290 passengers depending on the bed or seat layout, burns 27% less fuel per passenger than the A340-300, the aircraft it will replace in the Virgin Atlantic fleet.

It also claims the aircraft will make less noise, which could benefit local communities living close to airports.

With a range of up to 8,500 nautical miles, the aircraft will be able to fly direct from London to Perth in Australia initially and eventually from London to Sydney and Melbourne.

Virgin Atlantic will also offer a new route from London to Hawaii, and from next year, trans-pacific flights from Sydney to LA.

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