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C-17 Flight Uses Fischer-Tropsch Fuel Blend in All Four Engines

C-17 taxis out for first flight on synthetic fuel blend.

A C-17 Globemaster III took off 22 October on a flight using a 50:50 blend of Fischer-Tropsch synthetic and JP-8 fuels in all four fuel tanks.

The fuel used was essentially the same fuel blend used in the earlier B-52H tests (earlier post) except for the manufacturer. The C-17 used a Shell blend, while the B-52 used a blend from Syntroleum Corp.

This is the first time a C-17 has flown using a Fischer-Tropsch/JP-8 blend as the only fuel on board. Air Force members successfully flew a C-17 19 October with the Fischer-Tropsch/JP-8 blend in one tank to validate engine performance.

The C-17 is the workhorse of the mobility airlift fleet and the biggest user of jet fuel. C-17 certification is the next big step by the Air Force, after the initial certification of B-52s, to certify synthetic fuel blends for its fleet. The four-hour flight was designed to assess how well the aircraft performed using the synthetic blend of fuel. The mission consisted of ground operation of the auxiliary power unit and evaluation of in-flight performance of the engines and fuel quantity measurement system throughout the C-17 operational envelope.

The only real difference between the B-52 tests and the C-17 is that we have more confidence now. We know it worked on the B-52. From the cockpit, the C-17 seemed to fly the same as it would with JP-8 fuel. Now we have to go back and look at the test data to confirm that.

—1st Lt. Randy Anderson, 418th FLTS, propulsion engineer

The final steps for C-17 certification include a service evaluation out of McChord Air Force Base, Wash., completion of material compatibility tests and final supplier qualification of the engine, auxiliary power unit and fuel quantity measurement system with the Fischer-Tropsch/JP-8 blend.

Fleet-wide certification is planned for the first quarter of 2008, making the C-17 the second AF platform to be certified to use this synthetic fuel blend. The B-52 Stratofortress was the first, completing certification 8 August.

In accordance with the Secretary of the Air Force’s Assured Fuels Initiative, all USAF aircraft will be certified by 2011. An office has been created at the Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to manage this unparalleled effort.

The C-17 Globemaster III exclusively uses Pratt & Whitney’s F117-PW-100 engine—the military version of the PW2000 commercial engine. The PW2000 engine was designed for the Boeing 757, and covers the thrust range from 37,000 pounds to 43,000 pounds.

(A hat-tip to pda!)



It's safe to assume the raw material used was coal. Once again human ingenuity has found a way to take carbon safely stored underground and bring it to the high atmosphere. Of course that's also true of JP8 but petroleum will run out a lot sooner than coal.

These planes are like steam locomotives in the skies.

Prius Driver

It's too bad you can't generate anything positive to say about a technology that could keep us out of future wars in the middle east and reduce funding for terrorists. By the way, how much jet fuel has been burned sending troops and materiel back and forth to the middle east supporting the war we ARE in right now? The answer is in the thousands. These flights would not have flown without the war to support. This is the problem with the green movement today. Every one has their own "perfect" vision of a green future. If any technology is simply an improvement instead of a final answer people criticize it out of existance. This is a sure way to keep us fighting in the middle east for the forseeable future.

Rafael Seidl

@ Aussie -

I think in both of these particular cases the feedstock was actually natural gas. Of course, you *can* produce fuel from coal as well, but it's more difficult to meet very high quality standards. JP8 is just about the most demanding application out there.

Stan Peterson

@ Rafael,

JP7 and JP8 are nothing but quality variant names for kerosene. Kerosene was the first and sometimes the only petroleum fraction "refined" from Oil, and utilized from 19th century oil wells. It was also named "lamp oil" and saved many a whale; since the ease of obtaining it, bankrupted the whaling fleets of the world.

That a jet engine runs on kerosene derived from whatever source should not be surprising. The external combustion process can be and has been adopted to burn bunker fuel oil and various grades of diesel. Look at the power plants of modern non-nuclear navies and the fleets of MI Abrams tanks as examples. they all use gas turbine technology and burn these types of fuels.

The real issue is the development in large quantities of not mixture of petroleum fractions as current fuels are composed, whatever they are. Rather it the technologies associated with optimizing the combustion process for complete non polluting combustion of a Particular hydrocarbon, that also extracts the highest thermal efficiency obtainable for the given engine technology. That and producing it in economical quantity sufficient to power the air fleets of the world.

Separating kerosene from an oil or GTL or CTL process is pretty easy, as it was the first to be done successfully, back in the 19th century.



The Royal Australian Air Force has started taking delivery of C-17s. Maybe we can learn from this and start using this blend in our C-17s as well provided we have the infrastructure to produce it. We have plenty of Natural Gas in Australia to use as feedstock and we have plenty of coal to. We need to keep our military running and something like this would help cushion the blow of the energy crisis for them.


This begs the question.

Which is more important.
* Global Warming
* Peak Oil

Sincd inebitably we're going to have to choose one.

If we just want to solve peak oil, the feedstock is there.

If we want to deal with global warming, the feedstock is also there.


But the simple answer is that it would be atleast "counterproductive" to try to get people to put less carbon in the atmosphere, while also artificially making the cost of liquid fuels cheaper.

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