By Scott Spangler – email@example.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.
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.