Air New Zealand will put its biofuel through a punishing two-hour trial over the Hauraki Gulf hoping it will emerge as the "holy grail" of alternatives to traditional jet kerosene.
Ground testing of the jatropha-based fuel has shown it is lighter and has more energy than existing fuel.
The airline yesterday announced the test flight will take place on December 3, after a year of development.
The jatropha-based fuel has been found to be compatible with existing fuel and Air New Zealand's chief pilot Dave Morgan said signs so far were very good.
A 50/50 blend will be used to power one engine on a Boeing 747-400 that will take off from Auckland International Airport. The test is being run in conjunction with Boeing, Rolls-Royce and UOP, a Honeywell company.
Air New Zealand will become the first airline to use what it hopes will be a commercially viable biofuel sourced using sustainability best practices.
Although aviation fuel prices have fallen from mid-year highs, the airline industry is anxious to develop a fossil fuel alternative for its long term prosperity. If the jatropha fuel meets technical requirements, the crucial test will be whether it is economic to refine it for commercial aviation needs.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes Managing Director of Environmental Strategy Billy Glover said that based on results so far, the fuel that was refined in the United States exceeded three key criteria: higher than expected jet fuel yields, very low freeze point and good energy density.
"That tells us we're on the right path to certification and commercial availability," he said.
Testing showed that the jatropha-based biofuel met all critical specifications, including a freeze point at - 47C and a flash point at 38C.
Morgan said during the trial, the aircraft would take off at full thrust, undergo acceleration tests to provide data to analyse the aircraft's response, shut down then restart the engine at two different altitudes and simulate a missed approach or "go around" at about 5000 feet.
* Jatropha is a hardy plant that can grow on barren land.
* Jatropha fuel for the Air NZ flight was sourced from non-arable lands in India and Southeastern Africa (Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania).
* Oil makes up around 40 per cent of nuts from jatropha.
* Drought resistant and not food source for insects or animals.