Airplanes no image

Published on November 12th, 2008 | by Andrew Williams

30

Biodiesel Powered Plane Makes History With First Flight Across US

[social_buttons]

Earlier this month, pilots Carol Sugars and Douglas Rodante made history by becoming the first flight-crew to successfully fly across the US in a plane predominantly powered by biodiesel.

Of the total 2,486 miles flown from Reno, Nevada to Leesburg, Florida, 1,776 miles were 100% biodiesel-powered. The remaining 710 miles were powered by a 50/50 mix of biodiesel and standard jet fuel.

The November 1 jet flight lasted a total of 11 hours and 13 minutes at altitudes of between 13,000 and 17,000 feet. Amongst others, it was co-sponsored by eco-friendly aviation company Green Flight International and Pittsburgh company Lake Erie Biofuels.

Speaking about the record-breaking flight, co-pilot Douglas Rodante, also CEO of Green Flight International said, “These flights prove that we have the capability of supplementing our energy requirements with safe, environmentally-friendly alternatives to petroleum. And the Biofuel is produced in the U.S., which essentially negates our dependency on foreign fuel supplies.”

His confidence is matched by the Federal Aviation Administration, which has expressed an interest in using Green Flight’s flight testing program as a template for its assessment of future generations of biofuels. With giant aviation companies such as Boeing on-board, it seems increasingly likely that biofuels will play a large part in the future of the industry, across both the freight and passenger sectors.

Image Credit – minniemunkie via flickr.com on a Creative Commons license


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.



  • Doug

    I did not realize bio diesel had a high enough octane to be used as jet fuel. If it can great, now all we have to do is produce enough cheaply and efficiently to replace petroleum. Oh wait that has always been the issue; production can not meet demand at an affordable cost.

  • Doug

    I did not realize bio diesel had a high enough octane to be used as jet fuel. If it can great, now all we have to do is produce enough cheaply and efficiently to replace petroleum. Oh wait that has always been the issue; production can not meet demand at an affordable cost.

  • Doug

    I did not realize bio diesel had a high enough octane to be used as jet fuel. If it can great, now all we have to do is produce enough cheaply and efficiently to replace petroleum. Oh wait that has always been the issue; production can not meet demand at an affordable cost.

  • Gary

    To Doug.

    First of all diesel fuel isn’t measured in octane. It has a cetane rating which basically defines how much compression is needed to ignite the fuel. The higher the number, the lower the compression. I think you are confused with aviation fuel for small planes.

    2nd, the short sighted comment made about production quantities leaves no room to improve. It’s like saying I’d like to run a marathon, but I’m not in good enough shape and instead of training, I’ll do nothing. There are plenty of promising technologies that can drastically improve output. It just takes some effort to develop them.

  • Gary

    To Doug.

    First of all diesel fuel isn’t measured in octane. It has a cetane rating which basically defines how much compression is needed to ignite the fuel. The higher the number, the lower the compression. I think you are confused with aviation fuel for small planes.

    2nd, the short sighted comment made about production quantities leaves no room to improve. It’s like saying I’d like to run a marathon, but I’m not in good enough shape and instead of training, I’ll do nothing. There are plenty of promising technologies that can drastically improve output. It just takes some effort to develop them.

  • Gary

    To Doug.

    First of all diesel fuel isn’t measured in octane. It has a cetane rating which basically defines how much compression is needed to ignite the fuel. The higher the number, the lower the compression. I think you are confused with aviation fuel for small planes.

    2nd, the short sighted comment made about production quantities leaves no room to improve. It’s like saying I’d like to run a marathon, but I’m not in good enough shape and instead of training, I’ll do nothing. There are plenty of promising technologies that can drastically improve output. It just takes some effort to develop them.

  • http://www.kickinggas.org geo

    I wonder what all the starving people will think when they see the corn flying over their heads that now costs 20 times as much so that they can no longer afford to eat.

  • http://www.kickinggas.org geo

    I wonder what all the starving people will think when they see the corn flying over their heads that now costs 20 times as much so that they can no longer afford to eat.

  • Jim Rambo

    Doug’s comments are right on. Just to add a little to the conversation, jet fuel is also rated in BTU’s. The reason jet fuel, a very close cousin to kerosene, is used is its BTU rating per pound. Gasoline can be used to power jet engines but its BTU’s are less per pound than jet A. The primary reason for using Jet A is that you get more energy (BTU’s) per pound of fuel. And weight is almost everything in aviation.

    Once we get past the critical temperature and pressure of a fuel, simply meaning that it will achieve combustion in a jet engine, the next and maybe the most important question becomes the BTU rating of the Bio-diesel fuel per pound. I would be most interested in knowing that information. Thanks, Jimbo

  • Jim Rambo

    Doug’s comments are right on. Just to add a little to the conversation, jet fuel is also rated in BTU’s. The reason jet fuel, a very close cousin to kerosene, is used is its BTU rating per pound. Gasoline can be used to power jet engines but its BTU’s are less per pound than jet A. The primary reason for using Jet A is that you get more energy (BTU’s) per pound of fuel. And weight is almost everything in aviation.

    Once we get past the critical temperature and pressure of a fuel, simply meaning that it will achieve combustion in a jet engine, the next and maybe the most important question becomes the BTU rating of the Bio-diesel fuel per pound. I would be most interested in knowing that information. Thanks, Jimbo

  • Jim Rambo

    Doug’s comments are right on. Just to add a little to the conversation, jet fuel is also rated in BTU’s. The reason jet fuel, a very close cousin to kerosene, is used is its BTU rating per pound. Gasoline can be used to power jet engines but its BTU’s are less per pound than jet A. The primary reason for using Jet A is that you get more energy (BTU’s) per pound of fuel. And weight is almost everything in aviation.

    Once we get past the critical temperature and pressure of a fuel, simply meaning that it will achieve combustion in a jet engine, the next and maybe the most important question becomes the BTU rating of the Bio-diesel fuel per pound. I would be most interested in knowing that information. Thanks, Jimbo

  • Jim Rambo

    I meant Gary’s comments, sorry ;)

  • Jim Rambo

    I meant Gary’s comments, sorry ;)

  • Jim Rambo

    I meant Gary’s comments, sorry ;)

  • Doug

    Gary,

    Thanks for the info on the cetane, always wondered about that. Secondly my comment about production was mocking the fact that our country has always come up with great ideas, but seems to fall short of instituting mass change until forced to kicking and screaming. Believe me I want bio fuel to succeed as much as anyone.

  • Doug

    Gary,

    Thanks for the info on the cetane, always wondered about that. Secondly my comment about production was mocking the fact that our country has always come up with great ideas, but seems to fall short of instituting mass change until forced to kicking and screaming. Believe me I want bio fuel to succeed as much as anyone.

  • Doug

    Gary,

    Thanks for the info on the cetane, always wondered about that. Secondly my comment about production was mocking the fact that our country has always come up with great ideas, but seems to fall short of instituting mass change until forced to kicking and screaming. Believe me I want bio fuel to succeed as much as anyone.

  • http://sunshinesupercars.blogspot.com Jo

    I don’t think we’re using the available growing land even remotely effectively. I’m not talking about making everyone a vegetarian or anything, I’m referring to suburban sprawl.

    I just flew over Miami, a major city with MILLIONS of people, and they just keep pushing and pushing farther west, into the Everglades, destroying THEIR OWN WATER SUPPLY.

    It’s just stupid.

  • http://sunshinesupercars.blogspot.com Jo

    I don’t think we’re using the available growing land even remotely effectively. I’m not talking about making everyone a vegetarian or anything, I’m referring to suburban sprawl.

    I just flew over Miami, a major city with MILLIONS of people, and they just keep pushing and pushing farther west, into the Everglades, destroying THEIR OWN WATER SUPPLY.

    It’s just stupid.

  • http://sunshinesupercars.blogspot.com Jo

    I don’t think we’re using the available growing land even remotely effectively. I’m not talking about making everyone a vegetarian or anything, I’m referring to suburban sprawl.

    I just flew over Miami, a major city with MILLIONS of people, and they just keep pushing and pushing farther west, into the Everglades, destroying THEIR OWN WATER SUPPLY.

    It’s just stupid.

  • ChuckL

    When algae is used as the source for biodiesel the yield is abut 10000 times that of corn and it grows where little else does grow. It also eats CO2 and releases O2 during growth.

    We could replace all of our liquid fuel and export the balance. of course, we have to get Obama off of the corn kick.

  • ChuckL

    When algae is used as the source for biodiesel the yield is abut 10000 times that of corn and it grows where little else does grow. It also eats CO2 and releases O2 during growth.

    We could replace all of our liquid fuel and export the balance. of course, we have to get Obama off of the corn kick.

  • Hoth

    I know people who’ve had problems with biodiesel gelling up in the fuel lines of their vehicles in the winter. How do they keep the biodiesel from gelling up at altitude? Do they heat the fuel?

  • Hoth

    I know people who’ve had problems with biodiesel gelling up in the fuel lines of their vehicles in the winter. How do they keep the biodiesel from gelling up at altitude? Do they heat the fuel?

  • Hoth

    I know people who’ve had problems with biodiesel gelling up in the fuel lines of their vehicles in the winter. How do they keep the biodiesel from gelling up at altitude? Do they heat the fuel?

  • http://www.eriepatoday.com/ Dennis

    Lake Erie Biofuels is located in Erie, PA – not Pittsburgh. Their biodiesel is made from soybean oil or oil made from camelina.

    And to Hoth – Yes, they did heat the biodiesel for the flight.

  • http://www.eriepatoday.com/ Dennis

    Lake Erie Biofuels is located in Erie, PA – not Pittsburgh. Their biodiesel is made from soybean oil or oil made from camelina.

    And to Hoth – Yes, they did heat the biodiesel for the flight.

  • http://www.eriepatoday.com/ Dennis

    Lake Erie Biofuels is located in Erie, PA – not Pittsburgh. Their biodiesel is made from soybean oil or oil made from camelina.

    And to Hoth – Yes, they did heat the biodiesel for the flight.

  • Uncle B

    Can smaller, piston engined planes with diesel engines solve some of the problems? Foreign folks use them all the time, to save on fuel and maintenance costs. Would it be breaking and special rulings to use diesel engines in American Aviation circles? Motor-cars, same question?

  • Uncle B

    Can smaller, piston engined planes with diesel engines solve some of the problems? Foreign folks use them all the time, to save on fuel and maintenance costs. Would it be breaking and special rulings to use diesel engines in American Aviation circles? Motor-cars, same question?

Back to Top ↑