A United States Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II recently took flight using a cleaner fuel derived from a plant.
On March 25,, 2010, the jet, commonly referred to as a Warthog, took off from Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base powered solely by a biomass-derived jet fuel blend of Hydrotreated Renewable Jet (HRJ) and JP-8.
HRJ is created from animal fats and plant oils. The fuel used in this flight was derived from the camelina sativa plant. The annual plant sports prolific pale-yellow flowers and is a member of the mustard family.
The weed-like camelina plant grows up to three feet tall and requires little water or fertilizer to grow. The hardy, fast-growing plant can grow on marginal lands, can function as a rotational crop and is not used as a food source.
The readily available plant contains small oily seeds high in omega-3 fatty acid. The remaining protein-rich meal can be used as a feed source for livestock. According to Sustainable Oils, the oil performs similarly to biodiesel from “other sources but can be more efficient.”
The Air Force fleet currently consumes 2.4 billion gallons of jet fuel annually. As the “largest user” of jet fuel within the Department of Defense, all aircrafts in the Air Force inventory will be certified to fly using alternative fuels by the end of 2012 and acquire half of its continental jet fuel from an alternative blend by 2016, according to Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics, Terry A. Yonkers.
The ground-breaking test flight, conducted by members of the 40th Flight Test Squadron, was smooth sailing and went off without a hitch, according to test pilot Major Chris Seager. The test proved plant-derived fuel is capable of powering Air Force aircrafts. Other tests using the F-15 Eagle will take place sometime this summer and the C-17 Globemaster and F-22 Raptor will be tested sometime this year.
Learn more about alternative fuels on eBoom's Biofuels Learning Page.
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