Richard Branson and Boeing heap hope-and hype-on biofuels.
- By Michael Milstein
- Air & Space magazine, September 2007
University of Wisconsin
(Page 3 of 5)
“They…became rock stars after being people with tin cups who went around asking for money,” he says.
Bill Glover is managing director of environmental strategy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes and a founding member of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuel Initiative. Glover’s first project at Boeing as a young Purdue graduate was developing a quieter hydraulic system for the 707.
Ever since, he has looked for ways to make aviation cleaner and quieter and says the company has been all for them: “I have asked to do things and nobody ever said ‘no.’ ”
When they invited a few experts on the subject of alternative fuels to a meeting at Boeing’s Seattle facilities last year, even Glover and his colleagues were skeptical about alternative fuels being practical for airplanes. But the meeting got people’s hopes up: “The word got out and we started getting phone calls from other people who wanted to be there and it grew and grew,” he says.
They turned out to have a full-fledged conference; that’s where the alternative fuel initiative came together. The group’s aim is to lean on fuel producers, urging them to put more effort into developing alternative fuels for aviation.
Members of the initiative are also drawing up standards for alternative fuel blends, so the Federal Aviation Administration can promptly certify the formulations for use. “We formed a posse,” Altman says. “Everybody raised their hands and said ‘I’m in.’ The level of cooperation has been unprecedented.” The initiative doesn’t have much of its own money to spend, but it’s propelling plenty of spending by the FAA and others.
The Transportation Research Board is calculating how a shift to alternative fuel will affect an airport’s economics and the FAA is paying for an environmental review of alternative fuel options. The initiative has set a goal of having a biofuel blend for jets approved by about 2016.
Oils from plants are most often cited as sources for alternative aviation fuels. But growing and delivering enough product to satisfy the fuel demand might be self-defeating.