The first commercial cargo flight powered by bio-fuel takes place today

Image: Lufthansa Cargo

On Sunday, November 29, 2020, a cargo flight took off for the first time in the history of commercial aviation, whose fuel needs will be fully met by the Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) concept. This is the first cargo flight of such characteristics, which should become a basic premise in the not too distant future.

In flight

Lufthansa Cargo’s Boeing 777F took off from Frankfurt to Shanghai at 8:10 am local time, under flight number LH8406 and, at the time of writing, it was flying over Russian territory. You can follow the flight in real time on FlightRadar24.

FlightRadar24 image

This first CO2-neutral cargo flight was made possible thanks to the cooperation between DB Schenker and Lufthansa Cargo. The logistics service provider and the air freight company will transport Siemens Healthineers AG goods, among others, on this flight.

Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure Scheuer: “Even in the most severe aviation crisis ever, Lufthansa Cargo and DB Schenker are continuing their responsibility for climate protection and are operating their first flight with sustainable fuel alternatives. This is an important sign now that companies are looking to the future despite all concerns and are taking important steps to make aviation more sustainable. ”

What is sustainable fuel

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) refers to sustainable synthetic kerosene. Currently, it is mainly produced from biomass, for example, from sustainable and recyclable vegetable and cooking oils. In the future, non-plant based renewable fuels will also be available. The most well-known production process for this is the so-called “energy to liquid” (PtL) concept based on renewable electricity, water and CO2.

With the use of SAF, fossil CO2 emissions from a conventional kerosene flight are completely avoided. During combustion in the engine, only the CO2 that was previously removed from the atmosphere is released, for example, during plant growth. SAF is, therefore, the first real alternative to fossil aviation fuel and the key to CO2-neutral and climate-friendly air traffic.

In addition, DB Schenker and Lufthansa Cargo are also using a reforestation project to offset the CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions that result from SAF biomass production, processing and transportation. This ensures that flights are completely greenhouse gas neutral.


The SAF used can be added to conventional kerosene as a fuel and, therefore, is practical for daily use, without the need for adjustments to the aircraft and the supply chain. For this reason, an amount of SAF corresponding to the fuel requirements for flights from Frankfurt to Shanghai and vice versa is fed into the refueling system at Frankfurt Airport. Each aircraft subsequently refueled receives a small amount of SAF.

DB Schenker and Lufthansa Cargo agreed in November 2020 to exchange views on environmental issues and to promote them together, including the abandonment of fossil fuels in air cargo transport. Both companies will regularly offer CO2 neutral airfreight as a product to the transportation industry starting next summer.

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