Another Dinosaur: Aviation 80-Octane Fuel Passes On

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Owners of air-knocker airplanes with low-compression engines designed to run on 80-octane fuel will have to search for a new kind of juice soon. Kern Oil, the last standing producer of 80-octane aviation fuel, has stopped making the red stuff, AOPA reported Friday. While this development will come as no surprise to industry watchers, who wonder how long many of the low-volume products we consume will remain economically viable, it will be a pain in the neck for some aircraft owners. But for the unlucky few, there are alternatives (along with some specific operational practices) to consider. Low-compression engines are subject to accumulation of lead deposits from 100LL because of their comparatively tepid combustion temperatures. They don't need the extra octane, and certainly could do without the tetraethyl lead additive used to boost octane. Still, the portion of the fleet capable of using 80-octane is shrinking; all new production aircraft as well as the vast majority of the existing fleet are designed to use 100LL.

Alternatives for owners of 80-octane-familiar aircraft include the use of 100LL fuel and mogas. Automotive fuel is not as widely available as most proponents would like, but it's likely that many pumps currently spouting 80-octane will soon shoot mogas. The best tactic for using 100LL in these engines is aggressive mixture leaning during low-power operations. Owners can also use Alcor's TCP, a fuel additive that helps lead scavenging. And according to AOPA, aircraft owners won't soon be "out of gas." "AOPA has committed its resources to the future of aviation, and ensuring a continuing supply of aviation fuel is part of that commitment," said Rob Hackman, AOPA manager of regulatory and certification policy. "We're working on where you can find fuel today, and where you'll find it tomorrow."