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News > Alumni News > Cooking Oil Fuels Record Flight

Cooking Oil Fuels Record Flight

Dave Alcock (OI 1980-87) Helps Make Aviation History.
22 Nov 2022
Written by Leanne Castle
Alumni News
Dave Alcock is on the far left.
Dave Alcock is on the far left.

Old Ipswichian Dave Alcock is part of the RAF team who have enabled the first military flight using fully sustainable fuel. 

The RAF Voyager was powered by cooking oil and took off for the 90 minute flight from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. The cooking oil fuel, which was supplied by Air BP is part of the RAF's plans to reach net-zero by 2040 and reduce its reliance on global supply chains.

Dave spoke to Leanne in the Development Office and filled in the details, he said,"I work for Defence Equipment and Support as the Airworthiness Safety Manager for the Voyager aircraft operated by the RAF. The Voyager is an Airbus A330 which has had military adaptation to meet the RAF requirements. The aircraft is used in three roles, Air to Air Refuelling, Air Transport and Air Medical Evacuation. I am responsible for the Voyager Airworthiness Safety Assessment which identifies the Equipment Contribution to Risk to Life, this informs the individuals who hold the legal responsibility for risk to life, of those on the aircraft and to third parties as a consequence of the aircraft.

"As part of this role I also conduct Technical Compatibility Assessments between the Voyager and the receiver aircraft for air to air refuelling and also the assessment and recommendation for Military Permits to Fly. The Military Permit to Fly is required for development work which falls outside the approved limitations of the aircraft and which are flown by the Design Organisation, but on an In-Service RAF aircraft. The Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) required a Military Permit To Fly to enable the use of the military In-service aircraft for the required testing. For this it required a collaboration between many parties, Airbus Civil, Airbus Defence and Space as the Design Organisations of the aircraft, Rolls Royce as the Design Organisation of the engines. Air BP being the provider of the Fuel and AirTanker who support and maintain the aircraft for the RAF. And finally Defence Equipment and Support who assure the aircraft meets the regulatory and legislative requirements which enable it to be flown by the RAF.

"The analysis required and the impact on the aircraft as you would expect was extensive starting with analysis of the fuel data provided by AirBP, which was then assessed by Rolls Royce and Airbus Civil on how this would impact the engines and aircraft. The output being provided to Airbus DS to consider the impact to the military aircraft, before final recommendations being passed to me for consideration. This resulted in excess of 100 documents to review and ensure that any limitations in any document were carried throughout and then included in the final document the Military Permit to Fly. From the start of the project it has taken over a year to reach maturity and the final documents were provided to me on the day before the trial, although promised some two weeks before!

"The trial campaign itself was a month long with a week of aircraft preparation and then two and a half weeks of test flights and a week of recovery work post the final test flight. The testing was conducted in a progressive manner starting with a base line assessment of the engines using standard JetA-1 fuel. This progressed to ground and flight tests on each engine individually using SAF, culminating in the 100% SAF flight where the aircraft carried only 100% SAF feeding both engines on the 16th November. The test flights included 34 test shutdown and relights of the engine under test in different configurations. The flight test crew was made up from Airbus Defence and Space Pilots and Flight Engineers from Rolls Royce and the RAF"

Dave finished by saying,"I am very proud to have been an integral part in the process that enabled the successful completion of the flight trials. The data from the aircraft throughout showed that the 100% SAF fuel and the engine response was directly comparable with the base line data achieved in the first test flight with JetA-1. I was relieved to see the aircraft touch down after the final flight where they had no back up of Jet A-1 if they needed it! This provides a key step towards the Certification of the fuel for aircraft and moving towards the achievement of the Net Zero Goal for aviation, which I feel I have been a small part of."

Our congratulations to Dave and his team, in the future we may find ourselves flying for our annual holiday on a plane fuelled on cooking oil due to the RAF research.

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