The prospect of synthetic fuel qualification took an important step closer to reality last month 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.
Costa Rican regional airline NatureAir has entered talks with the government of the Central American republic for permission to sell biodiesel fuel to other companies. Despite the fact that its fleet of six de Havilland Canada Twin Otter turboprops runs on jet-A, serving 17 destinations in Costa Rica and Panama, NatureAir calls itself the world’s first carbon-neutral airline.
Testifying before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on air-quality standards for lead, AOPA executive v-p of government affairs Andy Cebula warned that any immediate changes to current aviation fuel standards would have a “direct impact on the safety of flight and the very future of light aircraft in this country.”
When you pull up to the gas pump in your car, you probably don’t think much about what is in your fuel. Perhaps you try to find a certain brand based on the fuel card in your pocket, but usually price is the primary factor. What about when you’re fueling your aircraft? Most corporate aircraft pilots and operators are aware of the fuel system icing inhibitors (FSII) and biocides available as additives for jet-A and jet-A1.
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.
Airbus and Shell recently made the first ever commercial flight using liquid fuel processed from gas when an A380 airliner flew from Filton in the UK to the airframer’s Toulouse, France headquarters. The flight marked the start of a program to evaluate the environmental impact of alternative fuels in the airline market.
Congress last month once again extended the FAA’s current authorization and aviation taxes until December 14, making it increasingly unlikely that the question of how to pay for operating the FAA and simultaneously modernizing the entire air traffic system will be settled anytime soon.
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.
A small percentage–about 20 percent–of the piston-powered fleet requires 100-octane fuel. Yet these aircraft burn about 70 percent of the total avgas volume, according to Allen Bretz, director of general aviation market at ConocoPhillips.
General Electric’s research arm and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (Darpa) have joined forces to develop an entirely bio-based jet fuel to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The main challenge is to make the conversion process efficient. The project envisions a conversion efficiency, by energy content, of crop oil to JP-8 surrogate of between 60 and 85 percent.