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First biofuel flight a success

November 15, 2012, 02:16 pm

Officials from the National Research Council in Canada recently announced that they flew a Falcon 20 jet that was powered by 100 percent unblended fuel. The officials said that not only does this flight pose a significant step for the aerospace industry, but also towards innovative solutions to sustainable sources of renewable energy. Applied Research Associates and Agrisoma Biosciences partnered with the council to develop the fuel in hopes of implementing it into the commercial airline industry.

“I have now flown the world’s first 100 percent biofuel flight,” said Tim Leslie, an NRC pilot. “We have been working hard with our partners for many months, and it is most rewarding to see it all come together. It is truly inspiring to take this step towards an eco-friendly future.”

Officials said the Falcon 20 was selected because it is the best-suited jet to support pure biofuel engines. Up until the successful flight, biofuel flights were restricted to a 50 percent blend of petroleum, because many were skeptical as to whether a 100 percent unblended fuel could support a flight.

"To date, all powered flight has relied on fossil fuel," said Steven Fabijanski, president of Agrisoma. "This flight changes everything: We have witnessed petroleum-free aviation."

Now researchers are analyzing information from a T-33 aircraft that was equipped with underwing sensors that were following the Falcon throughout its flight. The information will be used to gather more information on the environmental impact of the biofuel.

The Canadian government is hoping the flight is just the first step in a budding bio jet fuel industry. Agrisoma and Applied Research hired more than 40 Canadian farmers to grow oilseed crops on more than 6,000 acres, and the oil turned into bio jet fuel by the company.

Fabijanski added that the biofuel essentially looks identical to conventional jet fuel.

In a separate announcement made in October, BP announced that it is abandoning plans to construct a commercial-scale cellulosic-ethanol plant in Florida, as demand is not where it needs to be, the company will continue to focus on research and development.

Cellulosic ethanol is a renewable fuel made from non-food crops including switchgrass and wood cuttings. The original plan was to build the cellulosic ethanol facility in Highlands County, Florida, which would produce 36 million gallons of the fuel each year.

Aviation fuel and technological advancements encourage many people, young and old, to support general aviation. They also serve as a good reminder to those currently in the community to purchase pilot life insurance.

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