The United States Air Force announced that they have flown the first aircraft that runs on a new fuel blend based on alcohol.
The fuel, known as Alcohol-to-Jet or ATJ, is the third alternative fuel to have been evaluated by the U.S. Air Force as a potential replacement for standard petroleum-derived JP-8 aviation fuel for the organization's fleet.
The fuel was tested on an A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft on June 28.
The fuel is cellulose-based, or can be derived from any cell-based material like wood, paper or grass. The extracted sugars are then fermented to alcohols and then processed into aviation fuel.
ATJ was produced by biofuel manufacturer Gevo, who was put on contract last year to provide the Air Force 11,000 gallons of the fuel.
"It flew like a usual A-10 would without any issues," said Maj. Olivia Elliott, an A-10 pilot and an evaluator for the testing.
Test engineer Capt. Joseph Rojas said the plane is an "excellent platform" for testing the new fuel due in part to its segregated fuel system.
"The system allows one engine to run off a fuel supply that is completely segregated from the other engine. This allows us to fly with one engine on the new fuel and the other on traditional fuel," he said. "If engine operation is normal, as with the ATJ blend, then we progress to flying with both engines on the new fuel."
Prior to ATJ, the Air Force had used synthetic paraffinic kerosene derived from coal and natural gas and a bio-mass fuel derived from plant oils and animal fats known as Hydroprocessed Renewable Jet.
The Air Force has approved fleet-wide certification efforts of the fuel blend which will be officially used once the Air Force Alternative Fuel Certification Division completes all air and ground testing.
"Eventually, it is possible that aircraft will see JP-8 consisting of all these alternatives," said AFCD chief Jeff Braun. "You won't be able to determine the difference and you won't care, because all perform as JP-8."
By. N.P. Arboleda