Fighter jets chicken out on new fuel

NASA and the US Air Force (USAF) could soon be fuelling their aircraft on jetfuel derived from recycled chicken fat, opening the door to the widespread use of biofuel in aircraft.

This week the USAF successfully flew an F-22 Raptor at supersonic speeds over Edwards Air Force Base in California, fuelled by a 50-50 mix of the special biofuel and regular jetfuel.

Known as Hydrotreated Renewable Jet Fuel, the biofuel is created from a variety of different materials – from chicken fat and cooking grease to oil from the seeds of plants. The F-22 was specifically fuelled on biofuel derived from camelina, a type of weed.

“The F-22 performed flawlessly on the biofuel blend, citing no noticeable differences from traditional JP-8 (jet fuel),” said director of the Alternative Fuels Certification Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Jeff Braun.

At the same time, NASA started a research project at its Dryden Flight Research Centre into biofuel, with plans to fuel a DC-8 with the same 50-50 mix, this time using chicken fat-derived biofuel, and measuring the amount of gases its engines emit into the environment.

“The use of alternative fuels, including biofuels, in aircraft is a key element for substantially reducing the impact of aviation on the environment and for reducing the dependency on foreign petroleum,” said Ruben Del Rosario, manager of NASA’s Subsonic Fixed-wing Project Glenn.

NASA said their supply of just over 30,000 litres of the chicken fat-derived biofuel was provided by the USAF for testing.

Last year US poultry giant Tyson Foods Inc announced it had teamed up with fuel developer Syntroleum Corporation to create biofuel out of chicken fat and cooking grease.

At the time the USAF confirmed it had acquired about 192,000 litres of the chicken fat biofuel for testing in their aircraft.

Currently the US military has plans to fuel 50% of its aircraft using biofuel by 2016, with the A-10C Thunderbolt II fighter and the C-17 Globemaster III transport plane already successfully having flown using the fuel.

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