AirVenture 2010: The Avgas Agenda
Now that aircraft buyers, manufacturers and the alphabets are waking up from a comfy snooze behind the wheel and realizing the GA limo is about to sail off a cliff for lack of avgas, we should expect to see plenty of activity at AirVenture this year on the subject of a replacement for 100LL. (I understand why statements like this cause hives in certain quarters because I know people think they've done a lot of work to solve this problem. But when no solution has emerged, the end result is no different than somnambulism, conceding that in some of these briefings sleep is a necessary survival skill.)
I've been speaking to a lot of people about the avgas issue lately and the other day someone politely asked me what my proposed solution is. I can read between the lines as well as the next guy, so I heard that as "okay smartass, you've been flapping your lips about this for long enough, what would you do?" Fair enough. Herewith is my modest proposal. At some point, someone, an association or a company or an individual is going to have grow a pair, step forward and lead. Here are my elements of leadership:
First, octane. It has to be 100 or equivalent—no negotiation on this. If it's not doable—and I think it definitely is doable—then get as technically and economically close as possible. Say that clearly, say it often and to anyone who will listen.
Hands on with the FAA. Stop saying we're going to "work" with the FAA, or "support the best solution." Pick up the phone and insist on specifics of the FAA and stop being so fearful of offending the Administrator. He's an adult. He'll get over it. Sure, the FAA is hopelessly politicized, but that's the nature of the playing field.
"Specifically" means if a company wants to pursue an STC for fuel-related projects or any other kind of research, don't just say you "support it," actually do that. Insist that the FAA find a way to make this work. Do it often and explain to the world what you've done. And stop calling on the FAA to lead. Their job is actually to get out of the way. Industry will lead.
Find resources. Lycoming is donating engines for FAA fuels research, an investment that's in its own interest. Like most companies, they hardly have the budget. The rest of the industry should ante up, including the alphabets. AOPA, I'm sure, can find some funds to help with test cell work, which isn't that expensive. GAMA and EAA should help for the same reason. Let's remove "we don't have the resources" as an excuse for non-action and let's stop expecting that the government is going to pay for all of this. Oh, and by the way, I have a $500 check from my editorial budget to prime the pump. Who do I send it to at the FAA? And yes, I expect accountability.
Short circuit ASTM. The ASTM fuels cert process is nearly as broken as the FAA's lack of foresight. Insist that it be streamlined and accelerated or find another way to certify fuel. Say this publically and say it often. Then tell the world what you're doing and how you're making progress. No one is saying ASTM isn't necessary, but it needn't take three years to do it. Stop accepting past bureaucratic paralysis as the template for the future.
Help the mogas guys. A rising tide of ethanol has tanked the airport mogas movement but there are pockets of enthusiasm out there and evidently the emerging recreational fuels market make E0 a possibility in some areas. Mogas will never, ever chew into the avgas market enough to matter. It will not be the industry-wide solution. Ever.
But for some select owners and operators—some of them LSA flight schools trying to bring new pilots into the industry on the cheap—a buck a gallon matters. A lot. These guys are just as important for the future as anyone driving a Navajo or a 421. It doesn't make sense to devote a lot of resources to this, but it shouldn't be ignored, either. It could be as simple as a Web site clearing house for E0 and the airport facilities to dispense it. The free market will decide if it flies or not.
So that's my list. When someone fills it out—or even most of it—I promise I will finally shut the hell up.