Thunderbirds to perform first demo with alternative fuel

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The Thunderbirds will use alternative fuel, unprecedented for any Department of Defense aerial team, at the Joint Services Open House here May 20 and 21, officials said May 18.

The team will fly with Camelina-based hydrotreated renewable jet fuel as part of the nation's overall strategy to reduce reliance on foreign energy and establish greater energy security through conservation and use of "home grown" alternative energy sources, said Terry Yonkers, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics.

The economic impact to the Air Force resulting from these types of energy efficiency initiatives could be savings in the "hundreds of millions of dollars on an annual basis," Mr. Yonkers said.

"We are changing the culture of the Air Force, from our operators to every Airman that's out there turning lights off and being conscious about energy," Mr. Yonkers said. "This is going to be another marker for aviation history as these precision teams come out here and do the wonderful things that they do on JP-8 and biofuels and we're not going to see any difference when they're sitting in the stands."

Mr. Yonkers explained the Air Force has, to date, tested and certified biofuel as a 50-percent blend with regular jet fuel in the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the F-15 Eagle, the C-17 Globemaster III, and the F-22 Raptor, adding that fleetwide certification is on track for completion in 2013.

The service continues to test and evaluate biomass fuels derived from camelina, or plant seed oil, beef tallow, or animal fat, and various waste oils and greases.

Members of the demonstration team said the use of "green" fuel fits into the overall Thunderbirds mission and will be transparent to both users and spectators.

"The mission is to represent the pride, precision and professionalism of the nearly 700,000 Airmen of our Air Force ... at the same time we are showing the Air Force's dedication to alternative fuel, so it's a great opportunity," said Lt. Col. Case Cunningham, the lead pilot and Thunderbirds commander.

For more information about the Joint Services Open House, visit To learn more about the Thunderbirds, visit