By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which operates the nation's largest fleet of airplanes in a college training program, said on Monday some of those airplanes will soon be burning lead-free renewable fuels produced by Swift Enterprises. "We believe this effort by Embry-Riddle and Swift will guide the way to a large-scale switch by the general aviation industry to alternative fuels," said Richard Anderson, associate professor of aerospace engineering and chief investigator in the research project. Engineers at ERAU's campus in Daytona Beach, Fla., will perform the certification testing needed to enable more than 40 Cessna 172s, nearly half of the university's fleet of 95 aircraft, to use Swift fuel. Embry-Riddle chose to partner with Swift because the company's non-leaded fuel has passed an FAA detonation test and gets more miles per gallon than current aviation fuel, the university said in a news release. The fuel can be synthesized from sorghum.
Small aircraft, which burn nearly 190 million gallons of aviation fuel a year, contribute 45 percent of the lead emissions in the nation's air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Removing lead from airplane fuel has been technically challenging, because lead prevents detonation in airplane engines, according to ERAU's news release. AVweb editorial director Paul Bertorelli recently tested another candidate for the fuel that will replace 100LL, G100UL, under development by General Aviation Modifications, Inc. Click here to read his report and his opinions about the fuel.