Trying to Blend In

The Air Force has begun ground testing CFM International’s CFM56 engine burning the synthetic jet fuel known as Fischer Tropsch Kerosene that it wants its entire fleet capable of using by early next decade to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Flight International reported yesterday that the Air Force Research Lab and General Electric, a partner with CFM in this venture, are conducting the tests at GE’s facilities near Cincinnati. The CFM56 is a turbofan engine that is resident on hundreds of USAF KC-135R tanker aircraft and thousands of Boeing 737 and Airbus commercial airliners. The latter point is important because the Air Force wants the commercial airliner industry—a much larger consumer of aviation fuel—to buy into the domestic synfuel market it’s trying to foster to make it economically viable in the long term. Already USAF has cleared its B-52 bombers to fly with a blend of FTK and traditional JP-8 aviation fuel. Certification of the C-17 transport is ongoing. KC-135R flight tests using the synthetic blend are anticipated around midyear, the report said, citing USAF.