FAA Commends Air Force Synthetic Fuels Team: von Ohain Center a Key University Contributor

    University of Dayton's—von Ohain Center a Key University Contributor

    The Air Force team that developed a blend of petroleum and synthetic fuel for the B-52 Stratofortress received the Federal Aviation Administration's 2007 Excellence in Aviation Research Award at a ceremony March 14, 2008 in the Air Force Research Laboratory's Propulsion Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The team includes members of AFRL; Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.; Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.; Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tenn.; Air Force Petroleum Agency at Fort Belvoir, Va.; Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command at WPAFB; Headquarters Air Force, including the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition; and University of Dayton’s von Ohain Fuels and Combustion Center, Ohio.

    The FAA based its award on the team's overall effort to certify the B-52 for use of the 50/50 fuel blend of JP-8 and a synthetic fuel, or synfuel, derived from natural gas by the Fischer-Tropsch process. The B-52 effort resulted in the certification of more than 60 different materials, and supports the near-term certification of additional aircraft, including the C-17 Globemaster III, F-22 Raptor, and B-1B Lancer. The certification process so far has detected no significant differences in performance, flight safety, durability, ground handling or storage between synfuel and conventional JP-8.

    The von Ohain center researchers comprised: Matt DeWitt, Jamie Ervin, Bill Fortner, John Graham, Chris Klingshirn, Joe Mantz, Jim Shardo, Linda Shafer, Rich Striebich, Zach West, Ted Williams, and Steve Zabarnick. They performed extensive laboratory studies and in-field evaluations of synthetic fuel and fuel blends. These studies characterized jet fuel properties such as density, viscosity, freeze point, lubricity, hydrocarbon composition, storage stability, and fuel/sealing material compatibility to ascertain both the suitability for use and potential operational benefits and limitations. In addition, the VOFCC team performed combustor tests and demonstrated soot emissions reduction and enhanced oxidative stability of the synthetic fuel on-wing of the B-52 aircraft used for flight testing at Edwards AFB. All these efforts were vital to the establishment of the alternative fuel qualification effort. The experimental techniques and methodologies developed by VOFCC researchers are being employed to develop a fuel certification process and identify desirable fuel properties for future military and commercial aviation applications. Eventually, the goal is of certifying every single plane in the inventory by 2011.

    “UD’s von Ohain Center is our university research partner and I am extremely proud of what they had done to support the whole team effort,” said Tim Dues, deputy director of Logistics, HQ AFMC, WPAFB, Ohio.

    "The Excellence in Aviation Award is given for research that results in more efficient or safer flying operations. We give this award annually, and in the 10 years we've given it, this was the first unanimous choice," said Mr. Barry Scott, the director of the FAA Research and Technology Development Office.

    In accepting the award on behalf of the team, Jon Ogg, director of Engineering and Technical Management for Air Force Materiel Command and Maj. Gen. Curtis Bedke, AFRL Commander said, "This is a great day ultimately for the nation. It's historic in a sense, and a springboard for synthetic fuel. It opens doors for further certification."

    Development of synfuel is a significant effort in the Air Force's quest to find a source of domestically produced, assured fuels that would be sufficient for the Air Force to perform its national defense mission if current, overseas petroleum sources are threatened. Other motivations include rising fuel prices and environmental concerns. In addition, the B-52 certification supports the commercial aviation industry's Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) through information sharing and integration of commercial and military efforts.

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