Key Points:

It was a history-making flight but it looked all very ordinary - and that's just how Air New Zealand wanted it.

The airline yesterday completed the world's first commercial aviation test flight using biofuel to power one of its Boeing 747-400's Rolls-Royce engines. The biofuel is a 50:50 blend of jatropha and Jet A1 fuel

The jatropha plant - which Air New Zealand sourced from Africa and India - produces seeds that contain inedible lipid oil, which is used to produce fuel.

Air New Zealand chief pilot Captain Dave Morgan told reporters and Air New Zealand staff by satellite phone that the flight was uneventful - and he couldn't have been more pleased.

"The performance of the aircraft is very good. Nothing has occurred that we didn't anticipate ... It's notable for the lack of nothing - and that's the way we like it."

When he emerged from the plane he said it had performed "beautifully".

"We couldn't be more pleased with this significant and major milestone for the aviation industry," he said.

"There's still a lot of analysis to be done but we achieved a lot with the test flight and the manoeuvres we've done. The aircraft performed flawlessly."

Captain Morgan said the performance on the biofuel blend was indistinguishable from that on normal Jet A1 fuel. Engineers would spend the next few days assessing the engine and fuel system to see if any changes had resulted from the use of biofuel.

"Overall it's been a successful day for Air New Zealand. We're very pleased with the data we've recorded."

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe said the test flight showed the airline was at the forefront of making biofuel commercially viable. It was another step in the long-term goal to become the world's most environmentally sustainable airline.

The two-hour flight over Auckland's Hauraki Gulf put the jet through a punishing series of tests at various altitudes.

It took off at full thrust and performed acceleration tests as well as simulated a missed approach at 8000ft.

Prime Minister John Key congratulated Air New Zealand on the successful test flight.

"The fortunes of Air New Zealand and New Zealand's tourism industry are closely tied," he said.

"As we promote ourselves to the world as 100 per cent Pure, it's great to see Air New Zealand showing environmental leadership."

Mr Key said it was a historic day and he was proud the airline was working with world leaders in their fields to develop more sustainable fuels.

The test flight was a joint initiative by Air New Zealand, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell's UOP.

It was planned for early this month but was postponed after an Air New Zealand Airbus A320 crashed off Perpignan, France, on November 27.

* Jatropha

The Jatropha plant grows to about 3m high and produces seeds containing oil that can be used to produce fuel.

Each seed produces between 30 and 40 per cent of its mass in oil.

It can be grown in a range of difficult conditions.

It is refined in the United States to produce jet fuel that can serve as a replacement to traditional petroleum-based fuel.