Performance, Cost, And Engine Wear

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Jim Behnken, chief test pilot for AGE85, told AVweb yesterday there's no need for pilots to be anxious about that scenario. "100 low-lead might be available for another 100 years. But if it does go away, we do have an answer." Behnken said his group's research shows that ethanol can do the job. "I can take you flying in our test aircraft, and switch back and forth between ethanol and low-lead, and you can't tell the difference in performance," he said. The biggest drawback with ethanol is fuel economy, which is about 20 to 30 percent less. An engine that burns 5 gallons per hour of gasoline would instead burn 6 or 7 gallons of ethanol. "But the engine wear is less," Behnken said, "so overall, on operating costs, it's pretty much a wash." Also, engines that were optimized for ethanol fuel, as opposed to gasoline engines that are tweaked, could run more efficiently. The South Dakota project already has qualified for an STC to run ethanol in a Cessna 180 with a Continental engine, and most GA aircraft could be converted with a few hundred dollars worth of work, Behnken said.