On Monday, the Indian Air Force (IAF) took a major step towards making good its promise to fly a biofuel-powered An-32 transport aircraft over New Delhi during the Republic Day parade.
“Experimental test pilots and test engineers from the IAF’s premier testing establishment ASTE, flew India’s first military flight using blended bio-jet fuel on the An-32 transport aircraft. The project is a combined effort of IAF, DRDO (Defence R&D Organisation), Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA) and CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP),” announced the air force on Monday.
On July 27, the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, had announced his intention to promote bio-jet fuels. Addressing a seminar in Delhi on promoting indigenised technologies, Dhanoa said the IAF intended to fly the An-32 with aviation turbine fuel (ATF) diluted with 10 per cent biofuel on Republic Day.
Dhanoa offered IAF aircraft and all its testing facilities to realise this project, along with financial support under the IAF’s fund for indigenisation R&D.
After extensive engine tests on the ground, the project has entered the flight trials phase. This fuel is made from Jatropha oil sourced from Chhattisgarh Biodiesel Development Authority (CBDA) and then processed at CSIR-IIP, Dehradun.
The An-32 is not the first IAF aircraft to fly with bio fuel. In 2011, the US Air Force (USAF) announced that the C-17 Globemaster III — which the IAF also operates — was certified for unlimited use of hydro-processed blended biofuels, known as hydro-treated renewable jet fuels.
In 2010, the USAF had flown a fighter aircraft powered with bio fuel.
In essence, a bio fuel is a fuel produced from living matter that includes plant waste and animal fat, rather than a fuel produced through the geological process, such as coal, diesel and petroleum.
Last August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that bio fuels and ethanol blending could help India save $1.7 billion a year on import bills and called for more support to biofuels in the country.
Earlier this year, the government approved a new policy that expanded the feedstocks that could be used for ethanol production.