Fact Check: Commercial Airliners, Military Jets Do NOT Run On Compressed Air -- They Use Aviation Fuel

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Commercial Airliners, Military Jets Do NOT Run On Compressed Air -- They Use Aviation Fuel Totally Gassed

Do commercial airliners and military jets run on compressed air? No, that's not true: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) say none of their planes work that way. The jet engines that power these aircraft run by burning a combination of compressed air and aviation fuel, but none of them run solely on compressed air. The basic elements for a fire are fuel, heat and air.

The website for the Stanford University Engineering Department describes how a jet engine works: "In the basic jet engine, air enters the front intake and is compressed ... . Then the air is forced into combustion chambers where fuel is sprayed into it, and the mixture of air and fuel is ignited."

The claim appeared in a Facebook post on June 15, 2022, under the title "Did you know that commercial airlines, many of the military jets and other aircraft no longer use gas? They haven't been on gas for over 20 years, this is why they keep jet fuel top secret." It opens:

In this video we see truth right in plain sight and it's a kick in the balls. Here we see one of many proofs that we found throughout the years showing and telling that planes no longer use gas and they haven't for over 20 years.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

jet fuel.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Jun 16 13:19:44 2022 UTC)

The Facebook post provides no source for its claim. The edited video shows the refueling of a B-2 Spirit, a stealth bomber. A longer version of the same video, but in full perspective, can be found here in a DOD video:

The description for the video says:

Utah Air National Guard members from the 191st Air Refueling Squadron execute an air refueling mission from a KC-135 Stratotanker on Feb. 18, 2015. A B-2 Spirit from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Missouri participated during this training mission. UNCLASSIFIED

In a June 16, 2022, email to Lead Stories, a DOD official responded to the claim made in the Facebook post, saying:

That's false. All U.S. military aircraft run on aviation fuel, none run simply on compressed air.

The FAA, which regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the United States, said this in a separate June 16, 2022, email:

No civilian aircraft in the U.S. use compressed air as a fuel source.

And Justin Bronk, a senior research fellow for airpower and technology in the military sciences team at Royal United Services Institute, said this in a June 17, 2022, email to Lead Stories:

Suffice it to say, all jet aircraft commercial or military are powered by jet fuels such as Jet-A1. Compressed air is generated by jet engines as they burn jet fuel and is then used to power some auxiliary systems.

U.S. petroleum companies produce about 1.4 million barrels of jet fuel per day, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Updates:

  • 2022-06-17T16:00:45Z 2022-06-17T16:00:45Z
    Adds comment from senior research fellow for airpower and technology.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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