Ethanol Aircraft Ready To Fly

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Among the many intriguing sights at EAA AirVenture last month was an array of four brightly painted little RV-3s, just off Aeroshell Square, each with the word "ethanol" on its empennage and tail feathers. Nearby, a Mooney 201 also sported ethanol livery. The RV-3 E-Squadron has been flying for 13 years on corn-based ethanol fuel, and the Mooney is part of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council's AGE85 aviation-grade ethanol research project. That project has been working for 11 years to determine how to burn ethanol fuels in general-aviation engines, in the event that 100LL becomes unavailable. As the market shrinks for leaded fuel, the concern is that it will become harder and harder to get, more expensive, and perhaps go away altogether. Currently, there is only one factory that produces the additives needed in the fuel, and it's in the United Kingdom. Further, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has banned lead from other fuels, and it could decide at some point to ban 100LL as well.