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The A-10: The USAF’s Drunkest Aircraft

Written by on Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Normally, military-grade aircraft and alcohol aren’t two things that mix terribly well. Driving while intoxicated is one thing, but you’d have to have a death wish to try flying a plane while under the influence. That being said, the USAF is filling some of its aircraft with gallons of alcohol. No, they’re not trying to throw keggers one mile above the surface of the Earth, they’re testing out a brand new alcohol-based jet fuel.

The Alcohol-To-Jet fuel (ATJ) is the third and latest attempt by the USAF to create an alternative fuel source. Their standard petroleum-derived JP-8 aviation fuel is nice and all, but it’s expensive to create and not sustainable. They tried to derive a synthetic paraffinic kerosene from coal, and after that they experimented with bio-mass fuel derived from plant oils and animal fats known as Hydroprocessed Renewable Jet.

This new, much more boozy ATJ is a cellulosic-based fuel that can be recycled out of grass, wood, paper, or just about anything that has a cellular structure. They extract sugars from the cells, which they ferment into alcohol and hydro-process it into kerosenes. Yes, as crazy as it sounds, the USAF managed to get a jet into the air using a souped-up compost heap. I’m blown away that these USAF chemists were able to turn a pile of rotting fruit into military-grade jet fuel — they must have had some impressive schooling, like you’d get at the College of Marin.

So far, order cialis uk testing has been quite promising. Maj. Olivia Elliott, a pilot who tested out the new fuel in the air, reported, “It flew like a usual A-10 would without any issues.” The Chief for the Air Force Alternative Fuel Certification Division, Jeff Braun, added, “The A-10 is the first aircraft ever to fly on this fuel.”

There’s actually a great reason for using the A-10 as the guinea pig for the ATJ fuel. Its unique configuration allows for each of its two engines to run on its own independent fuel source, so they can have one engine running on traditional JP-8, and have the other engine churning away with ATJ. Not only does it make the whole operation safer, but it also allows the USAF to compare the two engines side-by-side to see which one is performing better.

Once the new fuel passes all its test, it gets to go on to bigger and badder aircraft. Joseph Rojas, a test engineer for the A-10, explained, “If engine operation is normal, as with the ATJ blend, then we progress to flying with both engines on the new fuel.”

This may very well be the first step on the long road to a total conversion from conventional JP-8 to ATJ. This is news that we can really be optimistic about. Not only will this fuel be an effective and functionally identical replacement, but this discovery might also lead to cheaper, greener, and more reliable biofuels at the local gas station.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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