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The owner of a Delfin L-29 jet that made the historic first-ever flight running on 100 percent biodiesel fuel last October said he's optimistic about receiving FAA approval to make the cross-country flight to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008.

Doug Rodante, founder of Green Flight International, which owns the L-29 BioJet, said his team has already alleviated many of the FAA's concerns. "Their biggest concern was the fuel would gel up," he said. Thanks to the fuel heaters on the aircraft, GFI has since proven it doesn't gel. "In fact, it gets warmer as we ascend. Now we just have to work out some of the small details."

To respond to all of the FAA's concerns, GFI built a turbine engine test stand and is now testing a variety of different feedstocks in the engine, as well as experimenting with additives, Rodante said.

"I will bring the FAA in on these tests very shortly," he said. "If our ground tests on the stand are satisfactory to the FAA…then we will fly in the actual aircraft for about five hours." If those flights are satisfactory, he said, hopes are that the FAA would then issue a temporary R&D certificate.

Lake Erie Biofuels is the group's new sponsor, and as the largest biofuel manufacturer in the United States has the capacity to provide BioJet with enough fuel - 3,000 gallons for the tests - as well as the fuel for the cross-country flight, Rodante said.

"It's really out of our control," he said. "But if we get the thumbs up from the feds, we'll be in Oshkosh."

Depending on when that approval comes, Rodante said they will fly either from Reno to Florida to Oshkosh, or directly from Reno to Oshkosh.

"Our goal is still to fly on 100 percent biofuel," Rodante said, not a biofuel-jet fuel mix as was done by Virgin Atlantic in a widely reported February 2008 flight. The airline flew a Boeing 747-400 from London to Amsterdam carrying a 20-percent mix of biofuel in one of its four fuel tanks, making it the first to fly an airliner with biofuel.

"It's a little more critical here because we have one engine and there is no room for error," Rodante said. With the FAA being very careful and scrutinizing everything, Rodante says they are "cooperating 100 percent. "We want to make sure the public is safe, too."

Once at Oshkosh, BioJet will be on display at AirVenture's central showcase ramp, AeroShell Square.

The Czechoslovakian military aircraft made the historic flight on October 2 at the Reno-Stead Airport in Nevada, with a fuel made from vegetable oil. Because this aircraft type is rated to fly on a variety of fuels from JP-4 and JP-8 to heating oil, it is the preferred platform for testing biodiesel in jet engines.

 

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