AN-32 of IAF to fly on blended biodiesel for 200 hours

In a significant move, the fleet of AN-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was certified to fly on blended aviation fuel containing up to 10 per cent bio-jet fuel.

This move comes as a part of efforts to reduce carbon footprint, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is looking to fly an AN-32 transport aircraft modified to operate on 10% blended biodiesel for 200 hours in the next six months, said Air Vice Marshal (AVM) S.K. Jain, Assistant Chief of Air Force.

The IAF AN-32 took flight on biodiesel blended with aviation turbine fuel (ATF) for the first time in December 2018.

IAF officials said the biofuel, to be used by the AN-32 fleet, would be produced from tree-borne oils (TBOs) sourced from tribal areas.

Biodiesel is a domestically produced, clean-burning, renewable substitute for petroleum diesel. Using biodiesel as a vehicle fuel increases energy security, improves air quality and the environment, and provides safety benefits.

“So far an AN-32 has flown 65 hours with a 10% blend of biofuel and the performance has been very satisfactory.

The target is to fly 200 flight hours, which should happen within the next six months”

AVM Jain said at a seminar.

An aviation biofuel or bio-jet-fuel or bio-aviation fuel (BAF) is a biofuel used to power aircraft and is said to be a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The International Air Transport Association (IATA) considers it a key element in reducing the carbon footprint within the environmental impact of aviation.

On the way forward, AVM Jain added that there was scope for increasing the blend ratio to 50-50% and also stressed the need for mass production of biodiesel.

Aviation biofuel could help decarbonize medium- and long-haul air travel generating most emissions, and could extend the life of older aircraft types by lowering their carbon footprint.

The global aviation industry, both civil and military, is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases which cause global warming. It is imperative that the industry finds ways to reduce its carbon footprint for global efforts to achieve ‘net zero emissions’ to be successful.

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A second aircraft, a Dornier, is currently undergoing ground tests after which it will undertake its first flight. The Dornier had been cleared by the original engine manufacturer of the engine, Honeywell, for use of 50% biofuel.

The plan is eventually to expand the usage of aviation turbine fuel blended with biodiesel to all fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft through evaluation and certification. Such usage has the dual benefit of reducing carbon footprint as well as reducing the usage of fossil fuels, which will also result in savings for the IAF.