The British Royal Air Force (RAF) recently announced the world’s first flight using 100% synthetic fuel which has been achieved on 2 November 2021 in Great Britain with a Rotax-powered Comco Ikarus C42 aircraft.
Prior to the ground-breaking flight, Zero Petroleum’s synthetic fuel was tested extensively by CFS Aeroproducts Ltd, the UK Distributor and Authorised Service Centre for Rotax Aircraft engines. From this extensive testing, it was found that the Rotax engine performed as though running on fossil fuels, but ran at lower temperatures, suggesting that the synthetic fuel could even increase engine lifespans while reducing carbon emissions. Officials from both companies - CFS Aeroproducts as well as Zero Petroleum – stated that power and torque curves closely match between what is now being called ZERO SynAvGas and UL91 fossil fuel. The synthetic fuel could also save up to 90 per cent carbon per flight.
The innovation behind the synthetic-fuel powered flight comes from the RAF’s Project MARTIN, which was initiated by the Rapid Capabilities Office in June. Jeremy Quin, Minister for Defence Procurement said that the flight was “a world-first innovation and that it shows the determination of UK Armed Forces to driving forward creative ideas on net-zero alongside meeting operational commitments.”
“We are proud to be part of this world record flight,” said Peter Oelsinger, General Manager BRP-Rotax / Member of the Management Board, Vice President Sales, Marketing RPS-Business & Communications. “The multi-fuel capability of our aircraft engines, that are able to fly with unleaded, leaded MOGAS or AVGAS* fuel provides the perfect match for such an innovative project like this,” he added.
The gasoline was manufactured in Orkney by extracting hydrogen from water and carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide and combining these ingredients using locally generated wind, and tide and wave energy. This process can also be used to create a range of “drop-in” fuels, which are a substitute for fossil-based aviation fuels and require no engine modification. Paddy Lowe, the chief operating officer of Zero Petroleum, said that the synthetic gasoline had been developed “in just five months” and yet it ran successfully in the aircraft without any modification to the plane or the engine.
Leveraging this innovation and working towards the government’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, the RAF has set an internal goal of becoming a net-zero force by 2040 with their first net-zero airbase by 2025. In making what will surely be seen as a historic flight, the RAF, Zero Petroleum and CFS have not only demonstrated a magnificent triumph for the Royal Air Force but secured a welcome win for both Rotax powered aircraft and general aviation as a whole.
With more than 190.000 engines sold and a global operating 4-stroke-fleet of more than 50.000 engines, Rotax aircraft engines lead the light sport and ultralight aircraft market. Rotax offers a worldwide network consisting of 16 authorized distributors and more than 220 points of sales and service supporting 270 OEMs with more than 400 Rotax powered models and customers worldwide. Therefore Rotax aircraft engines are supplied to more than 80% of all aircraft manufacturers in its segment.