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FAA lauds Air Force synthetic fuel team

  • Published
  • By Mike Wallace
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force team that developed a blend of petroleum and synthetic fuel for the B-52 Stratofortress received the Federal Aviation Administration's 2007 Excellence in Aviation Research Award at a ceremony March 14 in the Air Force Research Laboratory's Propulsion Directorate here.

Barry Scott, the director of the FAA Research and Technology Development Office, presented the award trophy to Maj. Gen. Curtis M. Bedke, the AFRL commander, and Jon Ogg, the director of Engineering and Technical Management for the Air Force Materiel Command, who accepted on behalf of the U.S. Air Force B-52 Aircraft Fischer-Tropsch Fuels Research Team.

"The Excellence in Aviation Award is given for research that results in more efficient or safer flying operations. We give this award annually, and in the 10 years we've given it, this was the first unanimous choice," Mr. Scott said.

The FAA based its award on the team's overall effort to certify the B-52 for use of the 50/50 fuel blend of JP-8 and a synthetic fuel, or synfuel, derived from natural gas by the Fischer-Tropsch process. The B-52 effort resulted in the certification of more than 60 different materials, and supports the near-term certification of additional aircraft, including the C-17 Globemaster III, F-22 Raptor, and B-1B Lancer. 

March 19 a B-1B became the Air Force's first aircraft to fly at supersonic speed using a 50/50 blend of synthetic and petroleum fuel. The flight occurred over the White Sands Missile Range airspace in south-central New Mexico but took off from Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas.

The certification process so far has detected no significant differences in performance, flight safety, durability, ground handling or storage between synfuel and conventional JP-8.

Development of synfuel is a significant effort in the Air Force's quest to find a source of domestically produced, assured fuels, which would be sufficient for the Air Force to perform its national defense mission if current, overseas petroleum sources are threatened. Other motivations include fuel prices and environmental concerns.

In addition, the B-52 certification supports the commercial aviation industry's Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative through information sharing and integration of commercial and military efforts.

The Air Force B-52 aircraft FT fuels research team includes members of AFRL; Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, Okla.; Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif.; Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tenn.; Air Force Petroleum Agency at Fort Belvoir, Va.; Headquarters AFMC at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; Headquarters Air Force, including the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition; and the University of Dayton Research Institute, Ohio.

In accepting the award, Mr. Ogg said, "This is a great day ultimately for the nation. It's historic in a sense, and a springboard for synthetic fuel. It opens doors for further certification."

"We are accepting for a heck of a lot of people -- there are an awful lot of you, unnamed but not unappreciated," said General Bedke. He also gave much credit to Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne, whom he said remarked early on, "Let's do it."

General Bedke said the team not only "did it," but also now has the goal of certifying "every single plane in the inventory by 2011." 

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