High school science teacher Ross McCurdy and his crew took off from North Central State Airport in Lincoln, Rhode Island at 10:20 a.m. on Saturday, April 16 in a small engine airplane filled with renewable Camelina plant seed oil, headed for Santa Monica Airport.
Providing they make good time, “Bioplane” should be landing at SMO on Tuesday, April 19.
But that won’t be the end of the trip for the crew, who plans to make the flight back to Rhode Island the same way, completing a 5,000 nautical mile coast to coast trek and the first transcontinental flight using aviation biofuel in a certified light aircraft.
McCurdy stated the goals of the project are threefold: 1) to demonstrate the potential of aviation biofuels and all renewable energy 2) to demonstrate high efficiency aviation diesel engine technology and 3) to promote aviation and real-world science education.
And McCurdy is all about real-world science education, as the chemistry and alternative energy teacher can list “hydrogen-fueled rock band” and “coast to coast biodiesel pickup” under projects he’s attempted with students prior to Bioplane.
“Our goal [with the pickup] was to make it with just the fuel we had in the pick up truck,” McCurdy said. “We made the trip to California with 40 gallons to spare. The kids all helped to get that project ready, just like they all helped to get this ready.”
McCurdy has his private pilot’s license and in 2013 he and his students worked on a project where they flew from Rhode Island to Kittyhawk, N.C. with fuel made from used cooking oil.
Bioplane’s fuel is made from Camelina plant seed oil and blended 50-50 with petroleum Jet A. The aviation biofuel blend was provided to the team by the US Air Force and the team will provide performance information on the use of biofuel in an aviation diesel engine over the 5,000 nautical mile flight.
“Diesel engines are very rare for planes,” McCurdy said. “And they are so efficient and so reliable.”
McCurdy, whose rock band and pickup truck projects both involved stops in California, said he picked SMO as Bioplane’s landing location, as it was the closest they could get to Santa Monica Beach as one thing he always makes sure to do in California is reach the beach.
McCurdy will be accompanied by four team members throughout different legs of the flight: Tomoharu Nishino, Thierry Saint Loup, Alex Schenck and McCurdy’s son Aedan.
Nishino will fly from KSFZ in Rhode Island to KUNV in Pennsylvania. Saint Loup, vice president for SMA aviation diesel engines, “the most advanced and most fuel efficient aviation engine available,” will be flying from Dallas area KGPM to KSMO and back to Dallas. And Schenck, McCurdy’s former student, will be flying with him and 12 year old Aedan on the home stretch back to Rhode Island.
McCurdy set Tuesday as the tentative arrival date in Santa Monica, and April 22, Earth Day, as the set departure back to Rhode Island.
“I want to extend my thanks to all the people who supported this and made this possible,” McCurdy said April 15. “Just as far as we’ve gotten now, I’m so grateful.”
For more information on the project visit, www.bioplane.us.