USAF begins synthetic fuel tests in afterburning engines

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Afterburning engine tests of synthetic fuel are under way, and the US Air Force is preparing to certificate its second aircraft type to fly on the natural gas-based jet fuel. "We have started doing [Rockwell] B-1 engine testing and we have flown the [Boeing] C-17," says the USAF.

Running a blend of synthetic and conventional jet fuel in the Pratt & Whitney PW2000-powered C-17 transport will be a bridge to commercial aviation use, with airlines and manufacturers closely watching tests of fuel produced using the Fischer-Tropsch process.

 
© US Air Force

Assistant secretary of the air force for installations, environment and logistics William Anderson visited London and Paris in mid-November to discuss the technology with military and industry leaders. Airbus, Qatar Airways, Qatar Fuel, Qatar Petroleum and Rolls-Royce have already signed a deal for synthetic fuel research and to build gas-to-liquid facilities in Qatar.

The USAF intends to certificate its entire fleet to run on synthetic fuel by 2011, and in August the P&W TF33-powered Boeing B-52H bomber became the first type to be approved. The C-17 will be the second, with a demonstration flight from McChord AFB in Washington to McGuire AFB in New Jersey planned for 17 December.

 
© US Air Force

Tests of the B-1B's General Electric F101 afterburning engine with synthetic fuel continue at the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee.