301st Fighter Wing participates in alternative fuel testing

  • Published
  • By SrA Melissa Harvey
  • 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Four F-16 Fighting Falcons took off for a routine flying sortie; one of them flew powered by a different kind of fuel.

Monday, Jan. 10, the 301st Fighter Wing began evaluating alternative fuel in its F-16 Fighting Falcons.

The evaluation supports an Air Force-wide effort to reduce greenhouse gasses and reliance on foreign sources of fuel, said Elizabeth Christensen, an Alternative Fuel Certification Office airframe systems engineer based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The fuel being tested is a 50/50 blend of traditional JP-8 and alternative fuel known as Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene, produced from coal, natural gas or both by using the Fisher-Tropsch process, Ms. Christensen said. This fuel varies from the traditional fuel in that it has less sulfur and produces lower engine emissions.

The Air Force has a goal for all aircraft in the fleet to be certified on the SPK alternative fuel during Fiscal Year 2011, Ms. Christensen said. The F-16 was certified to fly the fuel in August 2010.

Ms. Christensen indicated that the specific objective for the field service evaluation the 301st Fighter Wing is conducting, is to obtain long-term durability data of using the fuel blend in an F-16.

The wing expects to receive 100,000 gallons of alternative fuel for the testing, said Senior Master Sgt. James Holland, 301st Fuels Management Flight chief. In order to deliver the fuel to the flight line for testing, a fuel system with quality control devices was built specifically for the alternative fuel by the fuels flight.

During the evaluation, two F-16s perform routine operations using only the alternative fuel blend, until supplies are exhausted, said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Roark, 301st Maintenance Operations Flight superintendent.

Although a pilot may not fly one of these jets every time he flies, the odds of flying one of the two aircraft are good, said Lt. Col. Kurt Gallegos, 301st Operations Group commander.

"To be honest, we are comfortable with it," said Lt. Col. Kevin Zeller, 457th Fighter Squadron director of operations. "Its fuel, it burns."

The testing is expected to last until the provided fuel supply is exhausted, which could be a few months, Ms. Christensen said.

Because there are no equipment upgrades necessary and because all fuel for this evaluation was purchased by AFCO, no unit costs are involved, Ms. Christensen said. Price variations between the straight JP-8 and SPK synthetic component of the blended fuel are generally small.

According to Ms. Christensen, every test that has been completed to date indicates that the blended fuel performs the same as the traditional JP-8. No performance, durability or maintainability impacts have been observed.

It shouldn't affect our training, one way or the other, Colonel Gallegos said.

The 301st Fighter Wing is supporting this effort in order to assist in the Air Force's goal to be prepared to switch to the new alternative fuel in 2011, Chief Roark said.

"This wing continually supports and will continue to support the Air Force in whichever endeavor the Air Force brings us," he said.

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