Air New Zealand has postponed an historic biofuel test flight, originally scheduled for this Wednesday, as the airline comes to terms with the tragic loss of four employees in an Airbus A320 crash off the coast of France.
The world-first biofuel flight will now take place in early January next year.
The two hour 747-400 flight from Auckland had planned to use a jatropha-based fuel, sourced from seeds grown on environmentally sustainable farms.
“The full efforts and resources of Air New Zealand will be focused over the coming days on providing support to the family members of the missing New Zealanders and to our people, and assisting in the investigation of the A320 accident in France,” Air New Zealand says.
French authorities have recovered the cockpit voice recorder from the A320 aircraft that crashed into the sea on Friday morning (NZ time).
The plane had been leased from Air New Zealand by XL Airways Germany, which was operating it at the time of the crash.
The flight was to check that the aircraft, which had been repainted in Air New Zealand livery, was operating smoothly before Air New Zealand took the plane back and returned it to service.
Seven people died and it is not yet known what caused the accident.
The plane went down after an hour-long flight as it was approaching the airport at the city of Perpignan, and there was no radio correspondence between the pilots and air traffic control about any problems on board.
The incident was the 10th fatal accident involving the A320 aircraft.
The A320, first delivered in 1988, is one of the world’s most popular and respected aircraft.
It was the first commercial aircraft to use digital fly-by-wire flight control systems, and 3652 planes in the A320 family (which includes several other variants) have been built.
Of those, 19 have been involved in “hull loss accidents” – where the plane is completely destroyed or so badly damaged that it has to be written off – and these incidents have resulted in 631 fatalities.
The worst crash occurred last July, when a TAM Airlines flight was not able to stop while landing at an airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
All 187 passengers and crew died, as well as 12 people on the ground.
Brazilian and international authorities are still investigating the accident.