The Air Force on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week conducted the first flights of a supersonic fighter aircraft—in this case an F-15—burning a mix of traditional jet fuel and synthetic kerosene derived from natural gas (and potentially coal at some future point). The Telegraph of Macon, Ga., reported Aug. 21 that flights took off from Robins AFB, Ga. Test pilot Maj. Dan Badia and an initial analysis by engineers noted no significant performance differences; the aircraft flew well on the fuel blend when put through the paces, including supersonic dash. “Our goal was to prove the aircraft responds the same using synthetic fuel and we confirmed that,” Ryan Mead, an F-15 fuels engineer at Robins, told the newspaper. The test team will need about two months for a thorough analysis of data. Ground tests of Pratt & Whitney’s F100 fighter engine, which is used in the F-15, began in April. The Air Force wants to certify its entire fleet to run on this same fuel blend by around 2011 as a means of eventually reducing US dependence on foreign sources of energy. Already the service has certified the B-52H bomber and C-17 transport. The B-1B is nearing certification. And Air Force spokesman Gary Strasburg, told the Daily Report yesterday that the service expects to begin flight trials with the F-22 and KC-135 burning the fuel mix later this month.
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.