New Delhi: The workhorse of the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Russian-made AN-32 transport aircraft, has gone green. On Friday, the fleet of AN-32 was formally certified to fly on a blended bio-jet fuel, which will be 10 per cent tree-derived and 90 per cent conventional aviation fuel.
The approval certificate for its use on AN-32 was received at the aero-engine test facilities, Chandigarh, by Air Commodore Sanjiv Ghuratia, the Air Officer Commanding of 3 Base Repair Depot (BRD), from P. Jayapal, chief executive of the military aviation certification body Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), the IAF said in a statement Friday.
“This is a huge step in promoting the ‘Make in India’ mission as this bio-fuel would be produced from Tree Borne Oils (TBOs) sourced from tribal areas and farmers, augmenting their income substantially,” the statement added.
The shift is also meant to curb India’s dependence on crude imports, besides reducing the IAF’s carbon footprint.
An indigenous breakthrough
The bio-jet fuel technology driving the IAF shift was first developed by the Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP), which falls under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in 2009 and tested at several academic research labs between 2011 and 2013.
It, however, couldn’t be certified for commercial use on aircraft at the time due to a lack of test facilities in the civil aviation sector.
However, the tests gathered pace last year.
In December 2018, the IAF first flew an AN-32 on a bio-fuel that was a blend of Jatropha oil ad aviation turbine fuel (ATF).
Wing Commander A. Shrivastava, a research fellow at the thinktank Centre for Air Power Studies, wrote in a subsequent article that, with the flight, India had joined a league of select nations to have “developed, tested and certified a single-step HRJ(hydro-processed renewable jet) process to convert non-edible oil into biofuel for use on military aircraft”.
He estimated that the IAF would require over 3,000 kilo litres of the blended bio-fuel just for operating the AN-32 fleet alone.
At the Republic Day parade this year, too, the IAF flew an AN-32 aircraft running on the bio-fuel.
It was last year that Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa had announced the IAF’s intention to permit the use of all its resources for testing and certifying the indigenous fuel.
The IAF is now reportedly looking to test the blended bio-fuel on its entire fleet of helicopters, transport aircraft and fighter jets over the next two years.