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C-17 uses synthetic fuel blend on transcontinental flight

A C-17 Globemaster III flies over New York City after completing the first transcontinental flight on synthetic fuel Dec. 17. The C-17 took off before dawn from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., and landed in the early afternoon at McGuire AFB, N.J. (U.S. Air Force)

A C-17 Globemaster III flies over New York City after completing the first transcontinental flight on synthetic fuel Dec. 17. The C-17 took off before dawn from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., and landed in the early afternoon at McGuire AFB, N.J. (U.S. Air Force)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN) -- The Air Force marked the 104th anniversary of powered flight Dec. 17 by completing the first transcontinental flight of an aircraft using a blend of regular aviation and synthetic fuel. 

A C-17 Globemaster III using the synthetic fuel blend lifted off shortly before dawn at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., and arrived in the early afternoon at McGuire AFB, N.J., where it was greeted by Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne, New Jersey Rep. Jim Saxton, and a number of officials from both the airline and energy industries. 

"The Air Force is taking a leadership role in testing and certifying the use of synthetic fuel in aircraft," Secretary Wynne said.  "We're working very closely with our Army and Navy colleagues to ensure that this fuel is capable of operating in all of our aircraft. This is especially important because JP-8 military jet fuel is commonly used in the battlefield by the Army and Marines tactical vehicles and generators, as well as our respective aircraft." 

The flight follows successful tests of the fuel blend in C-17 engines in October, and is the next step in the Air Force's effort to have its entire C-17 fleet certified to use the mixture. Air Force officials certified B-52 Stratofortresses to use the mixture in August, and hope to certify the fuel blend for use in all its aircraft within the next five years. 

Synthetic fuel has the potential to reduce the United States' dependency on foreign energy sources. 

"The Air Force alternative fuel program is as important to the nation as it is to the Air Force because it keeps focus on alternative fuels by the largest user of fuel in the U.S. government," Congressman Saxton said. "We must continue to support the research ... to find cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuels that include both renewable and unconventional fuel." 

The fuel blend used by the Air Force mixes JP-8 with fuel produced using the Fischer-Tropsch process -- a method that can convert virtually any carbon-based material into synthetic fuel. German chemists Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch developed the method in the 1920s. 

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