French-fried flight |

French-fried flight

Pat Patera

Aviation history was made this month at Reno-Stead Airport, site of the world’s first jet flight powered solely by biodiesel fuel, says Rudi Wiedemann, president and chief executive officer of Biodiesel Solutions Inc.

His Sparks company provided the fuel that powered the plane.

That fuel might formerly have fried fries.

“A lot of people don’t know what’s possible,” says Wiedemann. A mutual friend got him together with Douglas Rodante, founder of Green Flight International of Orlando, Fla., and the flight plan took wing.

“What really captured my imagination was not financial profit but the opportunity to make a statement about what is possible right now,” says Wiedemann. “Boeing, Air New Zealand, want to run one engine on 20 percent biofuel next year maybe. But Rodante said, ‘Why don’t we just try it?'”

The World War II-era Czechoslovakian-made aircraft can fly on a variety of fuels including heating oil, so it was a natural for the biofuels test, says Rodante.

“It flew just fine,” says Wiederman of the hour-long flight to 17,000 feet.

His company contributed 500 gallons of fuel to the project, which had conducted a series of test flights, each using a greater percentages of biofuel until the 100 percent biofuel point was reached.

“We are a lot further along in adopting biodiesel than a lot of people imagine,” he adds. “If it can power a plane, how about your pickup truck? We’re going to use it as a statement about applicability in other applications not as exotic, such as farm equipment. It’s a confidence builder.”

The team plans a transcontinental flight from California to Florida later this year.

Biodiesel Solutions in Sparks was purchased in July by Renewal Fuels, based in Milwaukee. The acquisition by a publicly-traded company brought Biodiesel additional capital to go into production with Biodiesel Master, a system that converts waste oils such as french fry fat into biodiesel fuel.

Wiedemann, a retired Silicon Valley chip entrepreneur, says customers can replace their use of No. 2 diesel gallon-for-gallon with the output of Biodiesel Solutions’ system, or they can mix biodiesel with conventional fuels.

And if demand outstrips the supply of used cooking oil estimated at some 3 billion gallons a year in the United States the units run just as well on feedstocks ranging from crude palm oil to algae.


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