A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Runway 22 during a Fischer-Tropsch test flight from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Sept. 19. During the flight, two of the aircraft's eight engines ran on the natural gas-based Fischer-Tropsch fuel blend. The bombers are from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D. (U.S. Air Force photo/Chad Bellay)
Undersecretary of the Air Force Dr. Ronald M. Sega talks about the first use of an alternative fuel used on a B-52 Stratofortress flown Sept. 19 out of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Dr. Sega was a crewmember on the mission. (U.S. Air Force illustration)
by Staff Sgt. Mark Woodbury
95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
9/19/2006 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- The Air Force accomplished another aviation first when a B-52 Stratofortress flew using an alternative fuel Sept. 19.
The flight test involved running two of the bomber's engines on a synthetic fuel, made from a 50-50 blend of traditional crude oil-based fuel and a Fischer-Tropsch fuel derived from natural gas. The jet's other six engines ran on traditional JP-8 jet fuel.
Undersecretary of the Air Force Dr. Ronald M. Sega was on the mission as a crewmember.
"This test sets the stage for a more comprehensive plan the Air Force has toward conservation," he said. "This test fits into this overall vision and is the first step in a long process for looking at the viability of alternative fuels."
Maj. Gen. Curtis Bedke, Air Force Flight Test Center commander at the sprawling base, said, the fuel is one of many the Air Force is looking into.
"This test is aiding in creating options and alternatives to our current fuel," the general said.
Dr. Sega said the engines running on the synthetic fuel performed as well as the others. But he is still waiting for test analysis and the final test results.
If the test is successful, the next step will be to use the alternative fuel to perform an eight-engine test in a few months, General Bedke said.
Before the manned flight, the center tested the fuel to see how it reacted to aircraft parts. The fuel ran a T-63 engine during 130 hours of fuel testing. One of the engines was then taken off the B-52 and sent to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., where it went through a 50-hour continuous alternative fuel run.
The engines ware reinstalled into the bomber and ground tested before the test flight.
After going through the testing here, the alternative fuel left in the bomber's fuel tanks is scheduled to undergo cold-weather testing in January or February.
Although the Fischer-Tropsch fuel demonstration flight was successfully completed, it was cut short due to a mechanical issue with the B-52's left wing-tip landing gear, which was unrelated to the alternative fuel test. The aircraft landed safely without incident.