Flight Tests In September

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The Air Force has created a special unit to test the concept. A B-52 from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota has been assigned to the group and it will be modified so that two of its eight engines run on a blend of synthetic and JP-8. Maj. Gen. Curtis Bedke told the Shreveport Times that ground testing will begin in early September and they'll fly toward the end of the month. Operational testing will be done at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Cost-wise, the numbers may add up, given the spike in fuel prices. "The recent rise in cost of fuel has brought us to where many think we are now at the break-even point," Maj. Timothy Schulteis, the Air Force's propulsion program element monitor, said in May when the program was announced. However, some estimates peg the price at the pump for synthetic jet fuel at about $20 a gallon and a company that already has a contract to supply 100,000 gallons of the stuff to the Air Force agrees he's not ready to take on Shell or Exxon just yet. Mel Scott, of Tulsa-based Syntroleum, told McClatchy Newspapers his go juice, made 70 barrels at a time at a demonstration plant, is "not competitive" with regular fuels.