USAF C-17 Flies Using Synthetic Fuel Blend

 - December 20, 2007, 9:55 AM

On Monday, in what Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne described as a “special and meaningful mission,” a C-17 Globemaster III heavy airlift airplane touched down at McGuire AFB in New Jersey, completing the type’s first transcontinental flight using a synthetic fuel blend. Described by its pilots as “unremarkable,” the flight (which carried an AIN editor on its final leg from McGuire to Andrews AFB) is a crucial step in the Air Force’s plan to certify its entire fleet on synthetic fuel by 2011. The C-17 carries 80 percent of the Air Force cargo requirements and uses the same engines as some Boeing 757s, meaning the FAA’s Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative is keeping a close eye on the testing. According to Wynne, the synthetic blend burns more efficiently and more cleanly than standard jet fuel and could pay dividends by reducing the amount of engine maintenance required. Plans call for domestic production of the fuel to begin by 2012. The Air Force–the U.S. government’s largest fuel consumer–is hoping to lock in a long-term supply contract.