Science

NASA is sniffing jet fuel over Germany

Ancient DC-8 will try to figure out if biofuel’s a sick burn for contrails. NOT chemtrails, OK?

By Simon Sharwood, APAC Editor

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NASA has started sniffing jet fuel as part of joint experiment with the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt, DLR).

The experiment sees DLR fly an Airbus A320 burning newfangled jet fuels. NASA follows along its Armstrong flying lab, a Douglas DC-8. Aviation enthusiasts among The Register’s readership will recall that the DC-8 as an unlovely four-engine jet of the 1960s. NASA’s was built in 1969 and the agency keeps it flying because it can still carry a pretty decent payload.

For this experiment it is carrying sensors that let it sniff the exhaust of DLR’s A320, as that bird’s burning experimental fuels made with the seeds of Camelina plants.

The two agencies want to know what’s in the exhaust of planes that use such fuels. Previous such experiments revealed that a 50/50 mix of kerosene and biofuels reduced soot emissions by 50 per cent to 70 per cent. This time around the A320 will burn “fuel blends that contain 30 to 50 percent Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids” to figure out what the resulting particulate emissions look like and “how they affect cloud formation through contrails”

Eight sniffer flights have been planned, with NATO’s Ramstein air base the site of the tests.

The aviation industry is keen on biofuels because they are renewable and might just be cheaper than kerosene. Fuel is carriers’ single largest expense and with annual passenger numbers predicted to double, testing to ensure biofuels don’t have nasty side-effects is timely. ®

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