The possibility of commercially available synthetic jet fuels took a step closer to reality last week when ASTM International’s aviation fuels subcommittee passed a new specification for alternative jet fuel. The new specification details the properties and criteria required to control the production and quality of synthetic fuels for aviation use.
Airbus on February 1 successfully made what it billed as the world’s first flight of a commercial aircraft powered by synthetic fuel. The A380 flew from Filton, UK to Toulouse, France, powered by a liquid fuel processed from gas using the Fischer-Tropsch process. During the three-hour flight, the number-one engine was fed a blend of synthetic and jet fuels, while the remaining three operated on standard jet fuel.
The December nonstop coast-to-coast flight of an Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III using a synthetic fuel blend, the first for the type, is the latest indicator that such fuels are moving toward widespread acceptance in the aviation industry.
On December 17 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. The flight, which carried an AIN editor on its last 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.
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.
Synthetic fuel seems to be the new Holy Grail of air transport. The prospect of oil reserve depletion, the need to curb CO2 emissions and energy security concerns are all encouraging the industry to find a viable alternative to the current jet-A1 kerosene that can be used in current engines.
The Federal Aviation Administration is to leverage the U.S. Air Force’s experience with synthetic fuel, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said here on Tuesday during a press conference. Under the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), the FAA is studying solutions to replace today’s Jet-A1 kerosene. Looked for are fuels with smaller carbon dioxide (CO2) footprints. The results of two studies are due this September.
In a nod to increasing concerns about the environmental impact of aircraft, CFM International has successfully tested one of its engines fueled by a mix of biofuel and normal Jet-A1 kerosene.The company said the target is for a 20-percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
As oil prices remain above the $60 per barrel mark, operators, oil companies and government regulators are showing ever more interest in alternative jet fuels. At a March 8 speech at the U.S.
Airliners now entering revenue service will be around for the next few decades, over which time forecasters expect the cost of kerosene to rise significantly. Higher oil extraction costs and likely carbon dioxide (CO2) emission limits will no doubt radically alter air transport economics. The industry will simultaneously have to drastically reduce CO2 emissions from aircraft engines and find alternative fuels for them.
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