RAF sets world record for first synthetic fuel flight


The Royal Air Force has set a new world record for the “First aircraft powered by synthetic fuel” after one of its test pilots successfully flew an Ikarus C42 aircraft  for 21 minutes earlier this month.

The flight, which is part of a research project between the Royal Air Force (RAF) and UK-based synthetic fuel company Zero Petroleum, took place on November 2, 2021 at Cotswold Airport in Oxfordshire and was piloted by Group Captain Peter “Willy” Hackett, head of flight test pilot for the RAF.

The research program aims to ultimately to switch the entire fuel requirement of the RAF to synthetic fuels. The project to complete the first synthetic fuel flight, named Project Martin, started in June 2021.

Zero Petroleum founder Paddy Lowe said, “This project with the RAF demonstrates the validity of our synthetic fuel and the potential it has to eliminate fossil carbon dioxide emissions.

“We are particularly proud of the fact that this high-grade aviation gasoline ZERO SynAvGas was developed in just five months and ran successfully in the aircraft as a whole-blend without any modification whatsoever to the aircraft or the engine.

“The engine manufacturer Rotax’s measurements and the test pilot’s observations showed no difference in power or general performance compared to standard fossil fuel.”

Zero Petroleum’s synthetic fuel is made by extracting hydrogen from water using energy generated from renewable sources and combining the hydrogen with carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere to create “drop-in” fuels. The process uses an advanced proprietary process based on Fischer-Tropsch technology.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said, “Climate change is a challenge which threatens global resilience and our shared security and prosperity. I am determined to tackle this head on and have set the Royal Air Force the ambitious goal to be Net Zero by 2040.

“I am delighted at the award of this world record and to see the Royal Air Force yet again at the leading edge of innovation and technology, as we have been throughout our history.”

The record attempt was certified by the Guinness World Book of Records.

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About Author


Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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