Air Force successfully tests cargo plane on synthetic fuel mix
In a vision of what may be the future for civilian jet aviation in a petroleum-starved world, the Air Force has successfully flown a Boeing C-17 Globemaster cargo plane powered entirely by a mix of synthetic and traditional fuels.
The test is part of a concerted effort by the service to certify the use of synthetic petroleum in all fleet aircraft by 2011. The Air Force has previously certified Boeing B-52 bombers on the fuel mix and last week's test over Edwards Air Force Base was part of the process to ease the Long Beach-built C-17 cargo jet into using the fuel.
Following a successful Oct. 19 Edwards test flight where the C-17 carried synthetic fuel in fuel tanks and regular JP-8 fuel in the others, a four-hour Oct. 22 flight was conducted with only the synthetic fuel on board.
The flight crew reported 'no discernable difference' between using the traditional fuel and the synthetic fuel mix.
The synthetic fuel, called Fischer-Tropsch, is blended with the kerosene-based fuel that requires more natural petroleum resources to manufacture. The Air Force, the largest consumer of fuel in the Defense Department, is touting the fuel as a way of reducing dependence on foreign-produced fuels.
Further evaluations and test flights of C-17 using the new fuel will be conducted at McChord Air Force Base in Washington. Air Force officials hope to have the plance fully certified for the synthetic fuel by blend by early 2008.