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USAF begins synthetic fuel tests in afterburning engines

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.

 

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