There was a significant flight that took place on Thursday morning at Illawarra Regional Airport at Wollongong.
A two-seat Vans RV-9 set course for Tyabb, Victoria under the banner of the “10 per cent solution”. Powered by a single WAM120, three-cylinder turbo-diesel, the 120hp (90kW) powerplant uses conventional fuel blended with 10 per cent fuel manufactured from plastic waste.
Years in the making, the proving flight was piloted by the man behind the On Wings of Waste (OWOW) project – Jeremy Rowsell. Having witnessed plastic waste adrift in the oceans from the air, Jeremy set about inspiring people to recycle plastic, while also seeking to transform waste from a pollutant to a viable alternative for Jet A1 fuel that can also be used in any diesel engine.
“After years of preparation and many ups and downs we’ve finally shown that the eight million tonnes of plastic dumped into the oceans each year can be put to good use. We blended 10 per cent of fuel manufactured by Plastic Energy with conventional fuel and the flight was a dream,” Rowsell reflected.
And potentially, Jeremy’s flight could have a profound effect on the aviation industry, given that a significant portion of an airline’s operating costs stems from its fuel usage.
The fuel for Thursday’s flight was produced by Plastic Energy and uses end-of-life plastic, normally found in garbage patches in the ocean and landfill sites where it takes hundreds of years to degrade.
Some 95 per cent of the end of life material is usable for diesel fuel and the remaining five per cent, known as ‘char’, is a solid used for example for fuel additives and pigments.
Rowsell’s flight was supported by a small but effective team. Tony Loughran, from Zerorisk International, put him through a series of survival courses including underwater escape training, hostile environments awareness and sea survival training.
Loughran, with Rowsell, has also started to roll out an educational campaign with a lecture program in schools in Australia building a groundswell of support for OWOW. Chief pilot and advanced flying instructor Chris Clark of Five Point Aviation has also been a major driving force.
Rowsell arrived at Tyabb after five hours and 40 minutes of flight time, having burned the blended fuel at a rate of 17 lph. On landing, Rowsell was pleased to report that the “flight was very successful and uneventful”.
“It was a true proof of concept,” he said.
Rowsell further stressed that such a flight serves to highlight that, “a small group of Australian aviation enthusiasts can truly make a difference”.
See websites for OWOW, Plastic Energy and “A Plastic Ocean”: