Technology, Alternative Fuels Highlight Air Show

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Public Affairs
At the air base just outside the Motor City, it should come as no surprise that horsepower and fuel economy are hot topics - be it in a car or a high-performance jet engine. So when the theme of "technology" was selected for the 2009 Air Show & Open House at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, alternative fuels was a natural for part of the show. 

In addition to a big display trailer from NASA and - of course - plenty of high-tech aircraft, base officials invited a stunt pilot who runs exclusively on ethanol to power his acrobatic show. 

"We've done quite a bit of testing and determined that we get an 8 percent improvement in horsepower flying on ethanol, rather than traditional aviation gas," said Greg Poe, who flies an MX-2 acrobatic plane, sponsored by Fagen, a Minnesota-based company that builds ethanol plants and wind turbines. 

Poe flew his aircraft at the Selfridge Air Show, drawing a fair amount of media attention from Detroit-area news outlets that normally report on fuel standards for passenger vehicles, rather than stunt planes. A photo of Poe and his MX-2, complete with his slogan "Ethanol Kicks Gas!" emblazoned on the fuselage, was on the front page of the Detroit Free Press as a preview to the Selfridge Air Show. 

"It draws people in, gets them asking questions," Poe said of the ethanol-powered aircraft. 

The U.S. Air Force has been conducting a number of fuel tests in recent years, seeking ways to reduce fuel expenses and to reduce dependency on foreign oil. On March 19, 2008, the Air Force reported its first supersonic flight using a synthetic fuel blend in a B-1B Lancer. The fuel was a 50/50 blend of fuel derived from natural gas and traditional petroleum-based fuel. 

At Selfridge, Air National Guard units have been working on projects sponsored by the U.S. Army's Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in nearby Warren, Mich. Most notably, a fleet of hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicles have been in operation at Selfridge for more than a year, allowing Army researchers to track the performance of the vehicles and providing a platform to train technicians how to maintain the engines and related components. 

"Working with our Army TARDEC colleagues has benefited both organizations," said Brig. Gen. Michael Peplinski, 127th Wing commanding general. "It isn't just about a project for the Wing or for the Army. It is about pushing out new technology that is of benefit to all our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. 

"Ultimately, that benefits the nation as a whole," the general said. 

Other technology displays at the Selfridge Air Show included a collection of specialized robots used by the Army - and managed by the Detroit Arsenal in Warren - that are used in combat and related situations in forward theaters. The robot displays and the NASA "Journey to Tomorrow" exhibit drew large crowds of visitors both days of the August air show at Selfridge.