Boeing and Virgin Atlantic yesterday announced a deal for the airline to purchase 15 of the new 787-9 aircraft and form a new environmental partnership. The first 787 is expected to start final assembly in the next few weeks and will take to the skies for the first time later this year. It has been the fastest selling new airliner ever at least in part because of a twenty percent improvement in the fuel efficiency compared to existing aircraft.
The environmental work between the two companies will focus on developing biofuels that can be used as commercial jet fuel. The first demonstration is scheduled for next year using one of Virgin's Boeing 747-400s and also includes engine supplier General Electric. Virgin and Boeing are also studying how to update ground operations at airports to reduce fuel use during idling and taxiing.