The British Royal Air Force (RAF) set a Guinness World Record after the group’s senior test pilot, Captain Peter Hackett, completed the world’s first synthetic fuel-only flight.
The Ikarus C42 microlight aircraft took off from Cotswold Airport on November 2, using synthetic gasoline from the British synthetic fuel company Zero Petroleum, government press release said. The historic test flight lasted 21 minutes.
The RAF ended the groundbreaking Guinness World Record with the first flight of an all-synthetic aircraft, paving the way for the potential for zero-carbon aviation. # RAFNetZero2040 #OneStepGreener #stability # Guinness World Records #GWRDay @GWR pic.twitter.com/2SpvFV8F02
– Royal Air Force (@RoyalAirForce) November 17, 2021
The initiative is part of a broader carbon reduction effort known as the RAF MARTIN project, which developed synthetic fuel to reduce carbon emissions by up to 90 percent in flight without compromising aircraft performance.
I go all in with synthetic fuel
In an effort to reduce carbon emissions, we are electrifying public transport options. However, the military does not enjoy the same privileges as civilians and cannot expect a network of chargers to be set up in remote areas of the world where they operate. Yet, as major energy consumers, we cannot let the military get away with carbon. Therefore, the golden mean is synthetic fuel.
Created by capturing carbon dioxide from the air and then converting it to fuel by adding hydrogen molecules from the water, synthetic fuels are attractive options because they provide the same energy density as fossil fuels but do not contribute to carbon emissions. It is important that these fuels can be used with conventional engines without the need for any modifications.
The production of synthetic fuel also requires energy consumption. But companies like Zero Petroleum use renewable energy sources to produce these synthetic fuels. The US Air Force is also interested in this technology and is pursuing it, but only as fossil fuel additive in his plane. So the RAF’s attempt at full flight with synthetic fuel is a bold move.
“While green technologies such as electricity and hydrogen production are viable for many RAF platforms, high-performance aircraft require an alternative to liquid fuel to maintain their operational capabilities,” Defense Secretary Jeremy Quinn said in a press release.
Prior to the record flight, the synthetic fuel was thoroughly tested on CFS Aero engines. In addition to demonstrating performance similar to that provided by fossil fuels, the engines run at lower temperatures, suggesting that the use of this environmentally friendly fuel can also increase engine life, according to a press release.
“We are particularly proud of the fact that our high-quality ZERO® SynAvGas aviation gasoline was developed in just five months and works successfully on the aircraft as a complete blend without any modifications to the aircraft or engine,” said Zero Petroleum CEO. Paddy Lowe.
The RAF plans to establish a Net Zero air base by 2025 and become a Net Zero force by 2040, well ahead of the UK government’s goal of achieving zero status by 2050. Chief Marshal of Aviation Sir Mike Wigston said: “The way we power our aircraft will be a big part of achieving that goal, and this exciting project to produce aviation fuel from air and water shows how it can be done.“