Lycoming: 94UL Would Be A Huge Mistake

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As the industry continues to drift toward some unknown solution to the extinction of 100LL, Continental and Lycoming disagree on what the octane for that replacement should be. Continental has been aggressively pushing for 94UL and gave AVweb a briefing on that project at the Mobile factory two weeks ago. As with Lycoming, many of Continentals engines will require only 80-octane fuel and will have no problem with 94UL. For those that don't, Continental is planning a combination of tweaks, including low-compression overhauls, engine replacements, knock sensing and electronic controls. But Lycoming's GM Michael Kraft told us last week that certifying 94UL as the replacement piston fuel would be a huge mistake that could cost the industry billions in lost business. He believes that owners and operators are the ones most at risk and that most don't understand how significantly performance will be reduced or restricted by 94-octane fuel. "If people really understood what's going on today, they would understand that we need to set the objective at 100 octane fuel," Kraft told us at Lycoming's Williamsport plant last week.

Further, although electronic controls like Lycoming's own IE2 and Continental's PowerLink system provide marginal detonation protection, they won't make up for the six to nine octane drop that 94UL represents. (FBO 100LL is typically at least 102 to 103 octane.) Lycoming says that unleaded 100-octane is reachable and has been viably demonstrated by several research organizations. He believes the industry needs to focus its attention and resources on proving these fuels and bringing them—or at least one—to market.

For more detailed information on this story, see our podcast interviews with Kraft and with Teledyne-Continental's Bill Brogdon. And in today's blog, Paul Bertorelli offers some additional observations.