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NASA and U.S. Air Force eye chicken fat as jet fuel

Researchers are testing chicken-fat-derived biofuel on a NASA DC-8 to measure its performance and emissions as part of new research.

Hydrotreated renewable jet fuel, derived from chicken fat, may be used in NASA and U.S. Air Force aircraft. NASA

Maybe it's to offset the high price of chicken, but NASA and the U.S. Air Force could soon be fueling their aircraft on jet fuel derived from recycled chicken fat.

Seventeen organizations are participating in Alternative Aviation Fuel Experiment II, or AAFEX II, to see if hydrotreated renewable jet fuel is a viable, eco-friendly fuel for jets.

"It's made out of chicken fat, actually," said Langley's Bruce Anderson, AAFEX II project scientist. "The Air Force bought many thousands of gallons of this to burn in some of their jets and provided about 8,000 gallons to NASA for this experiment."

To launch the experiment, this month NASA researchers from Langley drove cross-country in a specially equipped 32-foot van, dubbed "the EM-50," to deliver the hydrotreated renewable jet fuel to test sites in California.

Research team loads up for the drive to California. NASA

Anderson and his team will test a 50-50 mix of biofuel and regular jet fuel, biofuel only, and jet fuel only, NASA said.

One test was conducted on a NASA DC-8 at Dryden Flight Research Center's Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.

Another test challenged a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor at supersonic speeds over Edwards Air Force Base in California. That test used a 50-50 mix of the special biofuel and regular jet fuel.

It may not have been the case for everyone, but the NASA announcement gave me flashbacks of the Muppet chickens clucking out their version of Strauss' "The Blue Danube" waltz from "2001: A Space Odyssey."