A huge milestone was recently reached at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida when an A-10C Thunderbolt jet took to the air running its engine on plant based fuel. The Air Force is the largest consumer of petroleum in the Department of Defense — they guzzle 2.4 billion gallons per year — and is hoping to wean themselves off foreign oil in the coming years. This flight was the first step in proving to their critics that measures can and will be taken to clean up the energy that fuels their aircraft.

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Hydrotreated Renewable jet fuel made from the camelina plant was used during the flight. The camelina plant is weed-like, needs little resources to grow and isn’t a food source, making it a great option for biofuel. Fuel certification officials for the Air Force flew in from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to observe the flight. When he had finished his quick jaunt in the green aircraft the test pilot — Maj. Chris Seager — approached the officials and noted, “felt great, no problems whatsoever.”

Terry Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics noted that the Air Force’s goal, “is to reduce demand, increase supply and change the culture and mindset of our fuel consumption.” Air Force officials have announced that they’d like to have half of their total fleet running on alternative fuels by 2016 and make sure that all of their aircraft have been certified to operate on those fuels by 2012. The next test flights will take place later this year and will focus on huge oil eaters like the F-15 Eagle, A C-17 Globemaster III and the F-22 Raptor.

+ Eglin Air Force Base