Building on experience gained at aeroengine makers, approving safe, reliable and renewable petroleum alternatives is all in a day's work for Federal Aviation Administration aviation fuels specialist Mark Rumizen
What attracted you to aviation?
I wanted to be a pilot, so the next best thing was to apply my analytical and technical skills to aviation. I've worked in many areas of the industry, from military to commercial, from large transports to small general aviation aircraft, and on turbine and piston engines. This has given me a broad overview.
What did you do at General Electric and Pratt & Whitney?
I worked my way from basic design engineering at P&W into advanced programmes at GE. I worked with airframers that were developing new aircraft or evaluating engine upgrades to aircraft. I was the primary technical liaison with Dassault for the Rafale prototype test aircraft that used GE engines, and with Singapore Aerospace for re-engining its fleet of Douglas A-4 Skyhawks.
Rumizen: a personal commitment to making the future more stable
Working with customers allowed me to expand my horizons from strictly technical to a broader business perspective. This dovetailed with my studies at Boston University, where I earned an MBA. I believe this experience at GE, along with my business education, benefited me greatly relative to our current challenges and opportunities with alternative aviation fuels.
Are there things you miss about the private sector?
I miss the more-clearly defined profit/loss motivation of the private sector. While our mission at the Federal Aviation Administration is clearly safety, as a government agency we must abide by our rules, regulations and policies, which sometimes distract from the job at hand. And, on a lighter note, I miss the spacious business-class airline seats on long trips to Europe and Asia.
What takes most of your time?
The hydrotreated renewable jet fuel qualification effort at ASTM. I spend a lot of time listening to the producers and engine manufacturers while attempting to ensure we have a safe and well-controlled alternative fuel, but also one that is producible. And I spend a lot of my time working with the general aviation community to research, develop, and qualify an unleaded avgas for piston engine-powered airplanes. This is more challenging than our alternative jet fuel effort, because we need to consider fuels with different compositions that are not "drop-in" fuels.
What are your objectives?
The objectives of our team are clear: to enable the supply of alternative jet fuels by facilitating their approval. Once they are approved, or certificated, that opens the door for investment and production scale-up. Our job fits between the initial R&D development activity and the later commercialisation efforts.
What is most rewarding?
The importance of our task. I believe that we, in the aviation community, can lead the way to introduce alternatives to petroleum and thereby contribute to neutralising the source of the current instability in our world. I have been personally, albeit indirectly, touched by 9/11 and the Iraq war, both of which are consequences of our situation. So, I'm committed to helping find a way to a more stable future.
Do industry and government leaders appreciate the importance of new fuels?
The FAA office of environment and energy, led by Carl Burleson, is taking the lead to ensure our engagement in the alternative aviation fuel effort. The aviation community recognises the importance of our task and is providing a significant level of resources.