The Air Force’s thrill show, the Thunderbirds, are flying high and performing stunts using biofuels.

The Air Force Times reports that the F-16 fuel by a hydrotreated renewable jet fuel, a 50-50 mix of petroleum-based JP-8 and a fuel made of plant seed, gave a seamless performance near the nation’s capital last month at Andrew Air Force Base in Camp Springs, Md.


The U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds continue to soar with test flights using biofuel blends. Credit: U.S. Air Force

Additionally, the F-15E and the F-22 Raptor made test flights earlier this year on the biofuel blend, while C-17 Globemaster had a successful biofuel flight last year.

These test flights hope to help the Air Force accomplish its goal of certifying its fleet of more than 5,000 aircrafts to use Hydrotreated Renewable Jet (HRJ) fuel by 2013. As the biggest consumer of fuel per year, totaling $7 billion, they hope to accomplish another goal of using a 50/50 blend of traditional and alternative fuels to meet their domestic fuel requirement by 2016.

Concerns do exist about the performance and cost effectiveness of transitioning to alternative fuels, but the Air Force continues to forge ahead and be a leader as airlines consider moving forward with alternative fuels.

Kevin Geiss, deputy assistant secretary of energy for the Air Force, said the early batches of fuels used for certification have gone from “hundreds of dollars a gallon, down to about $30 a gallon.”

He said the Air Force has sent a signal to the alternative fuels industry that it is serious about using alternative fuels, and it’s a message that he believes the industry has received.

“No one can question the Air Force’s commitment to pursuing alternative fuels, and we believe that maintains our position as a leader, not only in the service, but in the industry,” he said.

“If an F-22 Raptor can exceed the speed of sound using advanced biofuels, your old beater can do the same,” President Obama said in a March speech outlining his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future. “In fact, the Air Force is aiming to get half of its domestic jet fuel from alternative sources by 2016. And I’m directing the Navy and the Departments of Energy and Agriculture to work with the private sector to create advanced biofuels that can power not just fighter jets, but trucks and commercial airliners.”

Within the private sector, Bloomberg News reported that American Society for Testing and Materials International reached preliminary approval to blend biofuels produced from algal, jatropha, municipal waste and other cellulosic feedstock in aviation fuels, with the final approval expected by July. Lufthansa and Airbus are projected to start a six-month commercial trial of the 50 percent biofuel blend on flights operating between Frankfurt and London.

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