Sustainable Biofuels in Aviation

August 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

With greenhouse gases and climate change continuing to be in the spotlight, over the past decade aircraft manufacturers have made a number of improvements in aerodynamics and the development of lighter construction materials, all of which make a contribution to fuel efficiency. The Airbus A380 entered service with Singapore Airlines in October 2007, and two months later the CEO noted that the plane dubbed by the media as the Superjumbo was performing beyond the expectations of the airline and the manufacturer, by burning up to 20 percent less fuel per passenger than the Boeing 747-400 aircraft in Singapore Airline’s fleet.

While aerodynamics and composite materials play a role in fuel efficiency, the engines powering the planes hold the key to meaningful fuel savings. Engine manufacturers are also in the position to promote the move to sustainable biofuels. In a recently reported interview, Vice President of technology and environment for US-based engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, Alan H. Epstein, noted that because the aviation industry has made the drop-in fuel concept a reality, the change to sustainable biofuels can be facilitated without compromising engine efficiency or safety. Epstein pointed out that few people are aware of the fact that jet fuel varies significantly around the world, so when refueling at a foreign airport, an airplane will be making use of different fuel, or a blend of its original fuel and the new fuel. Taking this into account, the biofuel that has been tested may be considered to be a better option than petroleum based jet-fuels, but only if the composition of biofuel around the world is uniform.

The current requirement for biofuel is a 50 percent mix with fossil fuels, and while tests have been run with significantly higher concentrations of biofuels, the 50-50 specification is likely to remain for the foreseeable future. With regard to crops for biofuels impacting negatively on food crops, Epstein noted that defining biofuels as “sustainable” means at the very least that its production will not interfere with food production, food prices and water. Conceding that with current technology it would take land the size of Europe to grow biofuels for Europe’s aviation industry, Epstein said that finding ways of making more biofuel in a sustainable way is up to biological technology, not engine or airplane technology, which is already capable of utilizing biofuels efficiently.

Cirrus SR-22

February 9, 2009 by  
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Referred to by some as the “Parachute Plane,” the SR22 is widely considered to be the world’s best selling single engine four-seat airplane. Manufactured by Cirrus, the SR22 is a low-wing aircraft with non-retractable landing gear and a glass cockpit. It’s design is based on the SR20, an aircraft with a smaller engine and fewer options than the SR22.

The parachute is known as the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System and is standard on all Cirrus airplanes. In an emergency, the plane’s occupant deploys the parachute by pulling a ceiling-mounted handle. That sets off a magnesium charge and ignites a solid fuel rocket. The rocket rips open the parachute compartment then slows the airplane as the 55′ diameter parachute canopy opens. The parachute then lowers the SR22 to the ground. Ground impact is lessened with the internal roll cage, Cirrus Energy Absorbing Technology (CEAT) seats, and special landing gear. Cirrus has flight tested the parachute system up to 135 knots.

The SR22’s wing is designed to resist stalls and thus spin entry during an unintentional stall. This is possible because the inboard sections fly at a higher angle of attack than the outboard wing sections. In addition to minimizing the risk of stalls, the wing design also increases roll control. The wing’s most noticeable feature is the extension of the wing tips’ leading edge.

Another safety feature of the SR22 is the optional ice protection system. It works as a preventative measure to keep the wings’ leading edges, vertical stabilizer, windshield, and propeller when flying in icing conditions but can also loosen trace elements of ice that has already accumulated on the wings’ leading edges.

The Cirrus SR22-GTS is a fully loaded version of the standard SR22-G2 model and includes leather seats and many other options.

Maximum speed: 372 km per hour
Cruise speed: 330 km per hour
Chute deployment: 246 km per hour
Range: over 1,000 nm
Ceiling: 25,000′ (for turbocharged versions)
Length: 26′
Wingspan: 38′ 6″
Height: 8′ 7″
Maximum weight: 3,400 lbs
Empty weight: 2,250 lbs
Engine(s): One 310 HP Continental IO-550-N engine
Rate of climb: 1,304′ per minute
Takeoff roll: 1,020′
Takeoff (50′ object): 1574′
Crew: One pilot and up to three passengers

A10 Thunderbolt

February 9, 2009 by  
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The primary role of the A-10 Thunderbolt II was to provide close air support for ground forces. The single-seat twin engine A-10 was designed to destroy armored vehicles, tanks, and other fortified targets. It also provided forward air control in advance of other aircraft.

The first A-10 flew in October of 1975, and in March of the next year, the Air Force received the first deliveries of the airplane. A total of 715 A-10 Thunderbolts would be produced before production halted in 1984.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II was anything but a delicate airplane. It could withstand direct hits that would have devastated another aircraft, and returned her crew safely to base. Many stories have been told of a Thunderbolt, commonly known as the Warthog, limping home with gaping holes in its structure, a dead engine, or missing sections of a wing. In large part, the plane’s durability was due to the complex system of backup controls and hydraulic systems, and self-sealing fuel tanks. The retractable wheels were designed to not entirely retract so they could be partially used during belly landings.

Though its two aft engines presented an ungainly appearance, the Warthog was deceptively maneuverable. It could fly slowly at low altitude as well as perform short takeoffs and landings. The A-10 also flew well in adverse weather conditions. Fairchild developed a nighttime adverse weather version of the A-10 for the United States Air Force but the project was eventually canceled. That version of the aircraft would have employed two crew instead of the traditional crew needed for the A-10. The second airman would have been responsible for target acquisition, navigation, and other functions.

Overall, the A-10 has served its purpose well, which was to provide a better offense against ground based enemy units.

Maximum speed: 380 knots
Cruise speed: 300 knots
Ferry Range: 2,240 nm
Ceiling: 45,000 ft
Length: 53 ft 4 in
Wingspan: 57 ft 6 in
Height: 14 ft 8 in
Maximum weight: 50,000 lb
Empty weight: 24,959 lb
Engine(s): two 9,065 General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofans
Rate of climb: 6,000 feet per minute
Crew: one
Armament: combination of guns, missiles, bombs, and rockets
Contractor: Fairchild-Republic

If you are a current or former military pilot and would like to submit an article about your experience or a story about the A-10 Warthog then please contact us at and we would like to hear from you.

South Australian Aviation Museum

February 9, 2009 by  
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Port Adelaide, South Australia

The South Australian Aviation Museum began in 1984 inside a small garage behind a hotel in Glenelg. Two years later, the museum moved to the former SA Lion Flourmill in Port Adelaide. As the South Australian Aviation Museum grew, larger quarters were required and it closed temporarily in 2005 in preparation for relocating to its current home at the aviation complex on Lipson Street.

Aircraft on display inside the museum’s hangar include the Avro Anson, the Douglas C-47B Dakota, the Supermarine Spitfire MKVC, and the classic open cockpit biplane de Havilland Moth. Located around the hangar are numerous floor displays featuring notable aviators such as Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo to Australia which she did from Britain in her Gypsy Moth. Other displays include information on Australian pilot Jon Johanson who holds the world’s record for several aviation achievements involving speed and distance.

The South Australian Aviation Museum also has aircraft engines on display. Among them, see a 6-cylinder 340 HP de Havilland Gipsy Queen engine or the Rolls Royce Merlin MK III engine. The Merlin engine is the type used to power the Hurricane, Spitfire, and other famous aircraft during World War II.

Visitors to the Museum can watch restoration work being performed on a Fairey Battle World War II training aircraft, the only one located in Australia and one of only four in the world. Another restoration project in progress is the twin-engine 1956 Aero Commander. See these planes come alive again as technicians and historical experts restore them piece by piece.

Unique to the Museum is a rocket collection on loan from the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation. It represents more than 30 years of rocket history in South Australia beginning from 1950. Be sure to check with the museum for special events held throughout the year.

The Museum is located on Lipson Street in Port Adelaide. Visit their Web site at, and be sure to tell them you learned about SAAM on!