A Jet Powered by French Fries … Almost!

By Scott Spangler on February 5th, 2008

By Scott Spangler – scott@jetwhine.com

Learning that Green Flight International had made its first jet flight powered by bio fuel in October 2007 shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. After all, turbines were all the rage when I was growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s, and I was suitably impressed that they would run on anything that burned, kerosene, gas, perfume, so why not bio-diesel? Somehow it seems fitting that the GFI test aircraft is a 1968 Czechoslovakian L-29 Delfin trainer and its stock single-stage turbojet engine.

BioJet 1 Being good test pilots, they started with a mix of jet and biofuel and worked their way up to the October’s 100-percent vegetable oil flight, which climbed to 17,000 feet. In May of this year Green Flight and its partner, Biodiesel Solutions, will start their high-altitude tests, starting at 24,000 feet and working their way up to 40,000 feet. From my truck driving days I remember that diesel doesn’t do well when it’s real cold out, and it seems that biofuel wants to become gelatin when the temps head to zero and below. It will be interesting to see how they deal with this, heated tanks or blending bio with jet fuel or other additives.

If the high-altitude flights go well, the team is planning an eight-city cross-country flight, and a trip to AeroShell Square at EAA AirVenture 2008. Their really big adventure is planned for 2009, a 22,000-mile bio-flight around the world in a Lear 25. I’m sure they will learn lots, deal with the technical challenges that arise, and make the flight, and that in itself is worth the effort.

But bio-flight won’t go beyond experimental use until it is available at airports everywhere, and that’s not going to happen until some company – like McDonald’s perhaps – realizes their old French fry oil is worth big bucks.

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10 Responses to “A Jet Powered by French Fries … Almost!”

  1. Norman Says:

    Rob, Trust you – great find! Branson likes to grab headlines (surely not)but he was upstaged by Airbus when they decided to carry out trials on biofuels. The ‘bearded (rich) weirdo’ had his own plans of course in league with Boeing, but I guess he has lost his ‘first.’

    The USAF were up to this a while back. I am not sure what came of it.

    http://www.thedigitalaviator.com/blog/?p=248

  2. Norman Says:

    SCOTT! I do apologise, it was you all along. I don’t suppose you could do a little judicious editing could you….. Blush.

    Great opener.

    Kind regards,

    Norman

  3. Scott Says:

    Not a problem, Norman. Thanks for your kind words and welcome.

    Scott

  4. Dale Says:

    I have been running a 20% soy biodiesel mix in my truck for a couple of years now with no negative results. In fact, the truck really likes the mix. I get more power (bio has a higher cetane rating), higher fuel economy (about 32 MPG vs. 29 MPG unloaded in a 6.5 L engine), and a quieter engine (bio lubricates the injectors and pump better). With the mix, gelling has not been a problem down to -15 F. Beyond that, I have no experience.

    And we’re messing around with corn alcohol?

    Go biodiesel!!!

  5. Eric Says:

    Nice article. I saw this when it originally came out last october. Of course I laughed when I saw that it was an L-29. An Eastern Bloc airplane could probably run on pure vodka or sugar beet juice!

    There are other companies such as Tyson Foods who are now refining chicken fat into fuel for their trucks. Also some companies like Beluga in Germany that are using sail power to supplement containership engines. I had a couple articles on these over at freightdawg.com.

    Scott, meantime welcome to Jetwhine.com. The more whine the better. Just dont let Rob squeeze your grapes.

    Eric
    http://www.freightdawg.com

  6. Robert Mark Says:

    So is this essentially the same fuel that Airbus is testing as well?

    Any ideas on how performance changes with the totally synthetic fuel the Air Force has been using? Makes me wonder too, synthetic … what is it really made of?

  7. Norman Says:

    Rob, I just lumped it together all under the generic heading of ‘Bio’. Coal was once trees and swamp I supppose, so if we are playing with definitions maybe time needs to come into the equation somewhere as well.
    USAF and MacDonalds, there is a strange though.
    Just think of the imagery that those two linked together would bring to the movie screen. It makes you shudder…

  8. http://autofreight.net/ Says:

    so’ this is the latest vehicle powered by french fries, wow! very nice, in our country there is a bus powered by french fries also, i was totally amazed with that.
    but now there is a jet powered french fries to! wow!.

  9. Sports Physio Leeds Says:

    An interesting piece of research. I agree Biodiesel is the future. Just use sustainable resources for it.

  10. Cameron Kelly Says:

    i hope that we would be able to mass produce Biodiesel in the near future and i also hope that it would get cheaper’~*

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