Ian Graham works for the Defense Media Activity’s Emerging Media Directorate.
Last week, an A-10 Thunderbolt II flew solely on a new blend of biomass fuel and conventional jet fuel – the first flight of its kind. The biomass fuel was derived from camelina, a non-food rotation crop similar to soybean and mustard.
Three Air Force Materiel Command fuels experts who direct the research and certification of synthetic and biomass-derived alternative aviation fuels participated in a DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable interview and offered their perspectives on the history-making demonstration flight.
You can listen to the full Bloggers Roundtable interview or read the transcript. Joining the call were Jeff Braun, director, and Betty Rodriguez, chief engineer, of the Air Force’s Alternative Fuels Certification Office, and Dr. Tim Edwards, a senior chemical engineer with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Propulsion Directorate.
The Alternative Fuels Certification Office is preparing to test fuels made primarily from plant oils and animal fats. They are part of a family of fuels Braun said are called “hydro-treatable renewable jet” or HRJ fuels. What he and his colleagues are hoping to do is to create biomass fuels that the Air Force will certify for use across the spectrum of aircraft and support vehicles they use.
“The way we look at it is to figure out what fuels make the most sense from an aviation industry perspective, which ones have the potential to make the most fuel the most affordably with the least environmental impact,” Edwards said. “We’re just trying to figure out which kinds of processes for making jet fuel for aviation seem to be the winners, and look into those for further development.”
The Air Force is the largest DOD consumer of jet fuel but burns only the equivalent of a mid-sized airline. It’s closely cooperating with industry as part of a consortium of commercial airlines and engine manufacturers called the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative or CAAFI. The expectation is once biofuels are certified for use, production economies of scale will make them affordable, on par with petroleum based jet fuel.
[This blog post was modified from the original American Forces Press Service story on Defense.gov]