AirVenture 2010: The Avgas Agenda

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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.

Comments (99)

Looks like we found our leader. I nominate Paul Bertorelli for the position of "Most Honorable Dignitary for Representation of 100 Octane Advocates." All in favor?

Posted by: JOHN EWALD | July 26, 2010 9:58 AM    Report this comment

Ok Paul, but just remember what's driving this, and it ain't science, it's politics. Maybe there is a political solution, like a herd of senators vote to permanently exempt 100LL?

Like Paul I agree that ASTM is a problem and I think that stems from how the fuel spec may have originated: "Hey charlie, here's a barrel of fuel that we know works. Find out what it is, write it up and that's our spec." That's how Marvel 'certified' it's fuel systems: They found what works and stuck a 'reference' sample on the shelf that all others must match.

Maybe there's a better way.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | July 26, 2010 12:19 PM    Report this comment

That is it Tom. Exempt 100LL and tell the EPA to pound sand. Find the guy with a pair to do it. Then continue the replacement process.

Posted by: Ronald Lee | July 26, 2010 1:37 PM    Report this comment

And while you are at it, have that same guy tell whoever to get the ethanol out of all of our mogas.

Ron Lee Also wrote the second response

Posted by: Ronald Lee | July 26, 2010 1:39 PM    Report this comment

I think this is all very naive. Tom: Yes there were trial and error to find the current fuel standards, but interestingly is was not ONLY Charlie, it was also J rgen, Vladislav, Wong et others that independently of each other found out the same thing. What I am saying is that the ASTM is not the only standardization organisation in the entire world with an AVGAS standard. There are also UK, Russian, Chinese et al Avgas standards. Basically the existing civil standards all originate from military standards and before that yes perhaps Marvel also was there. Aviation is also an international business which also leads to "similar" fuels world-wide. How could else the international aviation have been created? I also think Paul is shooting in the wrong direction. Who are the members of the ASTM: Yes oil-companies, the FAA, the EPA but also all engine manufacturers in the US, the alphabet organisations etc. So when you say the ASTM is the problem - well then you are also saying that the problem is also those who are beeing represented in the ASTM.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | July 27, 2010 3:26 AM    Report this comment

cont. I also understand that the EPA is looking for a reduction of the amount of lead in the air where there is heavy GA traffic and actually have proposed a reduction by adding an unleaded AVGAS that could be the 94 UL or the 91/96 UL at the field while keeping the 100 LL intact. However the industry incl. the alphabet organisations are said to have rejected that idea. So once more Paul I think you are shooting in the wrong direction and at the wrong people/organisations. So then the question whom to shoot -- well I think Paul is looking for a wizzard -- so there is no-one actually to shoot.

The problem is the economical reality! There is just not enough money in the business to get the necessary change or adaption.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | July 27, 2010 3:26 AM    Report this comment

Lars, perhaps the reason that a 94UL in high traffic areas is being resisted is that you have significant dispensing issues. Some aircraft still need 100 octane. Does that mean another high cost fuel storage/dispensing system? At my airport that would not happen in the private sector due to cost alone.

Ron Lee

Posted by: Ronald Lee | July 27, 2010 8:00 AM    Report this comment

Paul, if the AOPA gets the stones to adopt 100UL as the only goal, they'll get my money at renewal time. I've removed my name from automatic renewal, which can only be done by telephone.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 27, 2010 12:08 PM    Report this comment

I have dealt with the FAA in other areas in the past (and, my Dad was 20 years with the FAA). I do not believe FAA will be involved in any 100UL avgas approval without an ASTM, or as Lars suggests, some other qualified standard as a reference.

What should be happening now is FAA approve STCs for sufficient testing of the new stuff to quantutate performance to the existing ASTM standard.

Such testing might indicate that certain changes in the standard might be needed, and could be done without impairing safety,

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 27, 2010 12:49 PM    Report this comment

I believe 100UL or bust shows a great deal of ignorance. Our engines may not actually need 100 octane, there may be another means of detonation protection (maybe water injection or something similar), or even perhaps some sort of mechanical spark advance system for mags that is relatively inexpensive. I like the idea of a drop in 100UL fuel, but there have been so many promises of that over the last 30 odd years that haven't worked out, I'm not willing to put all of my money in that cookie jar. We've got to look at certification issues as well as product cost. I'd much rather pay to modify my engine than end up with a fuel that doesn't work economically (to me a $1.00 or more premium per gallon over 100LL is unacceptable) If we do the math, you can amortize out a really expensive engine mod over several hundred hours if you're saving a couple dollars a gallon vs some new wonder fuel. To me, everything's on the table right now - once something is certified and we have a solution that will run in all our existing aircraft, then I'm willing to call a winnner. In the interim, I don't understand the resistance to a dual-fuel solution.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 27, 2010 2:16 PM    Report this comment

Many engines , that burn most of the avgas consumed, are certified with 100LL, your's may not, I don't know what you fly. What do you think it would cost to re-certify the fleet? And who will do this?

Dual-fuel is not a technical or political problem, but an economic one. The big (and only) FBOs at airports such as KLGB and KSNA will not put in the infrastructure to make 94UL available. They can't pump enough to to make it worthwhile.

Let's do some math. 15 gph at an increase in cost of $2.00 would cost $6000 over 200 hours. I really doubt there will be any certified engine mods at this price, or even twice that.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 27, 2010 2:43 PM    Report this comment

It isn't 100 octane or bust, it's 100 octane or proof, in the face of testing of current and future 100 octane solutions (Swift, GAMI and anyone else), that 100 octane isn't truly feasible, in which case it becomes As Close To 100 Octane As Possible.

It is not feasible to retrofit the current users of 70% of current avgas production with currently non-existent water injection systems, and variable mag timing is both non-existent and would mean low power operation on takeoff.

GAMI's George Braly has a long history of only saying what they can deliver, and his expectation that G100UL should be producible at about the price of 100LL is credible. The FAA should work to get him the STC's they need and allow the process of testing (both in engines and on the production side) to proceed.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 27, 2010 2:48 PM    Report this comment

Ron: My understanding is that the EPA is only concerned about the major GA -airports in the US where lead contents in the air might be at dangerous levels. Yes -for these airports dual tanks had been suggested (my understanding) -- but for small GA-airports one tank with 100 LL would be OK. I am reading today´s AVwebFlash that Mike Kraft from Lycoming is stating that going away from a 100 octane fuel or similar subsitute would be a "2 billion dollar mistake". Let,s say 1000 big GA airports in the US need a second tank with unleaded AVGAS and that each tank costs 50-100.000 US dollars. That would make it a total cost of 50-100 million US dollars which then should be compared to Mike´s statement of 2 billion US dollars. I don,t know what value insurance companies put on a life - perhaps 1 million US dollars ? -- then we are speaking about 50-100 lives saved for all future?? If that´s the case my statement - "there is not enough money in the business" makes sense.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | July 28, 2010 4:31 AM    Report this comment

>>It is not feasible to retrofit the current users of 70% of current avgas production with currently non-existent water injection systems, and variable mag timing is both non-existent and would mean low power operation on takeoff<<


Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 28, 2010 10:44 AM    Report this comment

Perhaps Josh would tell me how a non-existent water injection system can be installed into my engine by my A&P in order to produce rated power on low octane fuel? Or where to buy variable timing mags approved for my IO-520 with new performance charts for my aircraft for the new, lower performance.

These things don't exist. Pie in the sky.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 28, 2010 11:50 AM    Report this comment

>>?Perhaps Josh would tell me how a non-existent water injection system can be installed into my engine by my A&P in order to produce rated power on low octane fuel? Or where to buy variable timing mags approved for my IO-520 with new performance charts for my aircraft for the new, lower performance<

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 28, 2010 3:43 PM    Report this comment

You'll get them at the same airport selling Swift and GAMI fuel today that's approved and certified for your Bonanza. Fact is, there's gonna have to be some innovation before we get the lead out of our fuel. That may be on the engine manufacturing front, the fuel development front, or perhaps someone will come up with some gee-whiz gizmo you hook to your mags and away you go. I read somewhere that there have been over 200 potential 100 octane unleadeds that haven't worked out - I'm not betting the farm on Swift and GAMI. This fight isn't 100 octane or bust, it's how can we get the lead out at the lowest initial and recurrent cost to aircraft owners and operators.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 28, 2010 3:50 PM    Report this comment

Swift and G100 fuels exist, multiple planes are using them, and those companies are working to enable me to buy them. There is no one out there with aircraft flying with proposed final versions who want to sell variable mags or water injection.

Face it, Josh, you'd sell me down the river to save yourself 50 cents a gallon.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 28, 2010 3:59 PM    Report this comment

If the EPA thinks they don't have the authority to regulate lead in avgas(per their public statement at Airventure) how did this become a recent crisis to begin with????

Posted by: PETER WISSINGER | July 28, 2010 4:43 PM    Report this comment

Greg - I'm shopping for a light twin so I'm looking at modifying 2 engines instead of one. Here's the deal, I don't buy the kool-aid that 100UL will have a price delta of .50/gallon over 94UL, it will be more like $1 - $2 a gallon since it's a specialty product licensed by likely only one company. Historically, when there's only one game in town, the price goes up. $2 a gallon at 25gph is $50/hour in operating costs or $90k over the life of the engines. 45k per side would pay for a substantial engine mod. For the Cirrus / Columbia / Malibu crowd, you're burning that 20-25 gallons on only one engine - hence you can almost pay for Lycoming's gee whiz engine in one TBO in fuel cost savings alone. So, we've got some low time pilots flying 25 - 50 hours a year that are championing 100UL, but 80% of the recreational guys as well as the pilots who fly 200+ hours a year would likely save a bunch if we go with a standard fuel as opposed to a boutique fuel like Swift and GAMI.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 28, 2010 6:07 PM    Report this comment

My hope is that we can have an orderly transition to unleaded - with both fuels available for quite some time - so those with unmodified engines can fly them out to TBO before doing anything. If Lars can do it in Sweden, we sure as heck can do the same thing here. EPA says they'll get off our back if we go to a dual-fuel solution - then Greg can fly out his Bonanza to TBO but those of us who want to upgrade can save a few bucks on fuel costs. This is the winning solution for everyone. Perhaps we can get some special funding for airports to install additional fuel tanks.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 28, 2010 6:07 PM    Report this comment

No Josh, it isn't one company, GAMI has announced they will license their patent for a nominal fee to all who want it.

What current light twin with high compression engines will still be certifiable at the same weights with the lower compression and lower power? I've read opinions that will be approximately *none*.

94UL is not acceptable. A non starter. Paul B has this one absolutely right.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 28, 2010 6:41 PM    Report this comment

Greg, I'm afraid we're going to have to agree to disagree on this. GAMI's "licensing fee" is exactly the "single player situation" I'm talking about. Every argument you're giving me (not certified, no proof, etc) also applies at this point to the unleaded 100 octane contenders. I hope I'm wrong and we're all filling up with 100 octane unleaded in a couple of years at $4.50/gallon, but I just don't see it. And personally, I'd accept a lean max power restriction to save a dollar or two a gallon. To me, economics are more important than getting that last drop of horsepower out. I won't be buying an aircraft with a Lycoming right now, since I at least want a path to transition to 94UL, TCM says no problem, Lyco says it won't work. I think I know what this is all about though - you Bonanza guys are afraid if you can't get max power, all the Comanche and 210 drivers will be passing you! (Just kidding - smile!)

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 28, 2010 7:02 PM    Report this comment

The discussion - technology versus fuel - you can find more about that in my PPP from 2003 at Sure there exists water injection for GA aircraft. Tod Petersen has an STC for the Baron -- guess that that one rather easy could be made also to cover the Bonanzas - and then you can fly even on car gasoline and save even more. And with the new Cirrus 22T as written in the latest AOPA PILOT, TCM seems to have solved the problem now when that plane is said to work on 94 UL (Hjelmco 91/96 UL). So the problem is as Josh says the guy that flies 100 hours a year and has an engine that really needs 100 octane. He will be the one that uses the 100 LL (if an agreement with EPA is made with dual fuel) because 100 LL in the future will not be a 4:50 USD/gallon fuel but probably a 6:50-/7:00 USD/gallon fuel. Remember - the only leaded fuel product in an else complete unleaded fuel world. Josh: don,t abanodon Lycoming -- look at their SI 1070 and you will find a large bunch of engines certified to operate on Hjelmco´s AVGAS 91/96 UL (94UL) and this was made already in 1995! Currently most Lycoming engines up to 260 HP are already fine for my existing unleaded AVGAS. I believe in technology - smart things for the engines will make it affordable to fly.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | July 29, 2010 2:58 AM    Report this comment

I'll look over SI1070 again. Thanks for the heads up. I'm leaning towards something larger than a Twin Comanche, probably a Baron or 300 series Cessna, but if a twin-co will run on 94UL that's a thought. If the EPA's concerned about lead levels near busy GA airports, getting the lead out of the training and rental fleet should make a big difference. The larger airplanes take off and leave the area, while the 172's and Warriors stay in the pattern. Just a thought.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 29, 2010 10:26 AM    Report this comment

Also was looking at the TCDS for a TCM IO-470 G vs IO-470 U. It appears that the only major difference is the use of low compression pistons in the G - and the G is approved for 91/96 avgas. There is a horsepower loss - 10 hp to be exact - not exactly a deal breaker. Would I pull my cylinders and install new pistons to save $$$ at the pump - you betcha! Even if you've got to pay a mechanic to do the work -you're looking at about 20 hours of shop time and probably $500 in parts - no brainer to me!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 29, 2010 10:51 AM    Report this comment

"...not exactly a deal breaker..."

Ah, but you airplane would then not meet certification requirements if it was certifued with the IO 470U.

You could classify it as experimental, and possibly work towards an STC?

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 29, 2010 11:25 AM    Report this comment

Or the airframe manufacturer could issue revised specifications and list it as a factory approved modification with FAA approved engineering data via service bulletin. Or possibly a field approval - had to get one of these once for a Tri-Pacer 160 with a 150 hp engine. No doubt some approval process will be needed, but we're all in the same boat with these type aircraft if the new unleaded AVGAS - no matter the octane rating, doesn't meet the CURRENT ASTM spec for Avgas. (Honestly - a 10HP reduction requiring an STC / field approval seems stupid to me - the engine likely loses that as it ages - but rules are rules)

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 29, 2010 12:46 PM    Report this comment

No smiles here, Josh. It's only the commenting rules that are keeping me from ripping into you for your last comments. For efficiency's sake I generally fly at the Carson Speed, far below max cruise, and don't give a rip about how fast others choose to fly.

If dual fuel is back on the table, 100UL and unleaded, alcohol-free mogas should do the trick for even less cost for the low performance segment.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 29, 2010 1:28 PM    Report this comment

I think it's unlikely mogas will gain too much acceptance - too many pilots want their fuel to say AVGAS - it's always amazed me that pilots will pick 100LL over mogas at an airport if they are capable of running either fuel. I think 90% of the concern over Mogas is hype, 10% is true, but we pilots are a pretty conservative bunch.

Don't quite know what to say about your other comment - I think we're all friends here and in the end we all want the same thing - to fly at a reasonable cost - we've just got different approaches as to how to achieve that.

Happy flying

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 29, 2010 1:47 PM    Report this comment

Can anyone point us to the enabling legislation or memo for record that empowers either the EPA, FAA or the cookie monster to regulate lead adulterated fuels and for us to 'temporarily' continue the use of 100LL? It seems that the FAA administrator may be showing inexperience at his new job by saying the EPA rules. And - parsing sentences aside - The EPA's statement that it's the FAA's job. Paul Millner, a Petroleum Engineer who also happens to run the Cardinal Flyers Organization said the same thing years ago.

Mr.Millner also states that the preamble to the rule banning TEL from autogas claims the ban is necessary to prevent misfueling catalytic converter equipped vehicles. Lead coats the innards, killing the catalyst. Undoubtedly environmental lead was the target in some minds but lack data or a cause and effect relationship to make the case.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | July 29, 2010 5:14 PM    Report this comment

I still want to see the factual science behind the lead issue.

Posted by: Ronald Lee | July 29, 2010 5:16 PM    Report this comment

Aside from Lycoming's insistence that the fuel has to change and not the engine I see the current 'fuel crisis' a creation designed to let us know that the cost of flying is going to go up soon, and probably a lot. I also see it as a way to encourage the FAA to approve new engines and controls that 'drop in' with minimum hassle. Just add money.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | July 29, 2010 5:18 PM    Report this comment

Ron, the science is trumped by politics.

Tom, Google for this, there are plenty of hits.

"....Environmental Protection Agency’s April 28 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which collects information that eventually could lead to a ban on leaded avgas. The ANPR signaled that an “endangerment finding process” associated with lead emissions from general aviation aircraft has begun...."

The EPA is being sued by Friends of the Earth and other similar groups to eliminate TEL. Supposedly avgas is now responsible for 50% of lead in the atmosphere.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 29, 2010 5:32 PM    Report this comment

Here is more info than you want to know....

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 29, 2010 5:48 PM    Report this comment

Ron Lee: Can you make your thinking more transparent? Which lead issue?? Political? Biological? epidemiological? I have posted links to web articles and EPA info on previous blogs on this topic and the silence was deafening, so thanks for asking. If you are really interested I can find those old blogs and cut and paste my previous research. But you can do some of it too. Google is your friend. Try searching for 'lead', tetraethyl lead.' 'TEL', anti-knock compounds, octane booster, 100LL, etc: You get the idea. It kept me off the streets for several days. When you read studies look for researcher bias and sales of a point of view, and what was left out of the research, like competing factors. Some claim that there is no biological tolerance for lead (and mercury. The other boogyman's white meat). To a biologist that is a stupid statement: We are a life form that evolved on the earth's crust made up of a lot of things that are toxic in high concentrations. In that regard occupational and industrial studies produced data that prove a cause and effect relationship exists in high concentrations, but we are talking dose levels that kill, not just interfere with life forms. From that data some extrapolate and guess at cause and effect relationships at unbelievably low doses - many below that of field dust, and draw conclusions that support a pre-conceived point of view. Algore and his hockey stick comes to mind.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | July 29, 2010 5:52 PM    Report this comment

A cruise thru the EPA web site today indicate a heightened level of reality on the subject: They claim that blood lead levels have decreased since the ban on auto lead. But homes filled with lead paint have also been replaced with lead free homes and lead based paints and solder have also been banned. What I really liked is that the researchers didn't draw a conclusion, they only presented the data. Wow! Now that's science!!

Posted by: Thomas Connor | July 29, 2010 5:52 PM    Report this comment

Curse you Ed Wininger! More reasons not to visit the bar! Oh wait. Maybe they have wifi . . .

Here is more info than you want to know....

Posted by: Thomas Connor | July 29, 2010 5:58 PM    Report this comment

If the epa says the FAA regulates the fuel, why the EPA ANPRM on leaded fuel? I don't get it.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | July 29, 2010 6:05 PM    Report this comment

Josh, by denigrating my motives as being afraid other planes will be flying faster than I can, you've firmly placed yourself out of my circle of friends. Sometimes a smiley face just doesn't equate to a free pass to insult folks; I fly at efficient speeds and don't give a diddley about how fast anyone else flies.

Fortunately, The FAA Adminstrator is now getting it right: "Let us develop the standards so that we will have an easily deliverable safe efficient fuel that performs just like 100 leaded fuel does today..."

This means 100 octane.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 29, 2010 6:41 PM    Report this comment

Greg - when I say just kidding that means it's a joke! Really! Lighten up dude!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 29, 2010 7:02 PM    Report this comment

When I say it really wasn't funny, it really wasn't funny, and no amount of "Lighten up dude!" asininity will change that.

This is a serious subject, and you've been decidedly lightweight.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 29, 2010 7:10 PM    Report this comment

Lightweight - no - but I've got a different opinion on the solution than you do Greg. I think the Hjelmco solution in Sweden is brilliant, and it's time to do it here. And for what it's worth, I'm buying a lot of the blue stuff for an airplane I fly a lot that needs it, so I think I'm pretty vested in this thing.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 29, 2010 7:37 PM    Report this comment

It's lightweight to bandy about solutions that don't exist, and make jokes at other folks expense to score debating points.

Just how much skin in the game does JJ have? You buy 100LL in some quantity. In what airplane(s) is this burned, with what engine(s) and what percentage of the(se) planes do you personally own?

I earned my PP ASEL in the '70's, started flying in earnest circa '97. I own 100% of a nice but not spectacular V35A which represents a notable percentage of my net worth. I've maybe $105K into it, it's probably now valued at $90K.

Pie in the sky possible "fixes" to my airplane to allow it to run on 94UL are all vaporware and unapproved. My engine's manufacturer, TCM, is pushing 94UL but hasn't actually released to their past customers what mechanical or procedural changes might be required to use the fuel they want and what performance changes this would entail, and it is clear they want to profit from the parts or engines I might need to fly my plane in the future.

It is clear that the only current fix to my plane that would allow it to fly with the 285HP the airframe is certified with would be a brand new/rebuilt detuned IO-550 for perhaps $40K installed that would allow the same operations while using more fuel per mile than my IO-520.

I really can't afford $40K to turn my $90K airplane into a $90K airplane, and if my engine needed major work tomorrow I would have to put the plane into storage and let it sit until the dust settles.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 29, 2010 9:29 PM    Report this comment

Correction, the pistons for a detuned IO-550 don't actually exist yet either, but that's the only simple way to get 285 horses into a Bonanza if the low octane agitators get their way.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 29, 2010 9:33 PM    Report this comment

Greg, my situation is nearly identical to yours. Thanks for your comments. Tom, I totally agree.

Posted by: Brad Vaught | July 29, 2010 10:32 PM    Report this comment

Josh - if you look for a twin-engined a/c - look at a refurbished Aztec, they load a lot and are good sturdy aircraft. Greg - don,t get mistaken by the octane numbers listed in the type-certficates of many piston engines. A large bunch of these 100 LL engines are in reality good for 91/96 but they got 100 LL in the certificate because it was the only fuel available on the market at the time of certification. So all: do request the engine manufacturers to do their home-work to rerate the 100 LL engines which they think actually are 91/96 engines. Avgas has a big advantage over MOGAS -- they have the correct vapor pressure, density, energy-content, long storage capability among others and a 91/96UL (94 UL) is a drop in replacement for a large part of the fleet. When introducing MOGAS you have to go via the STC:s and some of them are not only a paper-work. A dual fuel (a leaded and an unleaded) solution also needs to create sufficient volumes for the unleaded fuel to make the decrease in lead in the air sufficient, while making it profitable for the oil industry to have a dual fuel solution.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | July 30, 2010 4:11 AM    Report this comment

Lars, I didn't think about the Aztec, but it's worth a look. Where do you think the 300 series Cessna's will be if 94UL is the fuel of the future. They're that bad 8.5:1 ratio that TCM is a little worried about (IO-470U's and IO-520's) I'm not paranoid about loosing 10hp a side if need be, but do you think they'll run on 94UL, or how extensive of mods will I be looking at?

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 30, 2010 11:53 AM    Report this comment

I missed something. Where did the dual fuel idea come from and what is the logic behind it?

Posted by: Thomas Connor | July 30, 2010 12:18 PM    Report this comment

In Sweden, Hjelmco oil has been providing 94UL alongside 100LL for years. Apparently the EPA wants to reduce lead emissions, but is willing to back off on its rulemaking if the industry introduced an unleaded AVGAS that the majority of the fleet could use, while maintaining 100LL for the few that really need it. FBO's have been complaining about the cost of installing additional tanks, although from what I've seen, Lars company is using a skid-type tank that would be easy to install at local airports - not near as fancy as the fuel cells we've got here in the states, but much nicer than an old farm tank. Apparently the 94UL is a lot bigger seller for them than 100LL, although they also do custom batches of 115/145 leaded also for the old warbirds. And the 94UL is about .50 US cheaper per gallon than 100LL at the pump. Lycoming has a SB that lists all of their engines that are approved to use Hjelmco's unleaded fuel, and it's pretty extensive.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 30, 2010 12:32 PM    Report this comment

Lars, IIRC the IO-520BA was tested to have adequate detonation margins on 99 octane.

JJ, still waiting to hear what skin you have in the game at this time.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 30, 2010 6:38 PM    Report this comment

Greg, you just told me off in your last post, and now you want to have a conversation?

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 30, 2010 8:23 PM    Report this comment

Josh- I would guess a straight solution for your engine would be smaller pistons and then the addition of turbos. This will give you rated power. Contrary to what people in general think - turbos work fine with lower octane fuels. The Czech Walter piston aircraft engines have a turbocharged 78 octane engine with CR of 1:6,00. Yes there will be an investment but perhaps turbo capacity wouldn,t be that bad at all? Greg: Octane numbers are not what people think octane numbers are and the science back of it is not fully understood/known. Recent tests show for example that a 98,5 MON unleaded gasoline outperformed a leaded 100 LL AVGAS. This is contrary to other findings that about 103 MON unleaded would be equivalent to 100 MON leaded.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | July 31, 2010 2:44 AM    Report this comment


Thanks for the response about two fuels. I should have been more specific. I'm referring to someone's post about taking off feeding from a tank of unleaded then later switch to a tank of leaded so there was less lead at at airports. But that strategy seems opposite to detonation needs, ie, Vx takeoff over the airport for noise abatement.

If memory serves me correctly, TEL is popular because it is cheaper than using expensive feedstocks required to make 100 octane unleaded. If that is true, and if Hjelmco sells 94UL for 50 cents less than leaded I assume it is subsidized. Since ethanol gets about $3/gallon of subsidy it's not unreasonable to ask for that to get the lead out, but we don't have the lobby that corn squeezers have to actually get it.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | July 31, 2010 11:46 AM    Report this comment

Tom: I am the founder and 100 % owner of Hjelmco and the fuel is NOT subsidized. We have sold unleaded fuel at about 50 cents less than 100 LL since 1981, i.e. for 29 years. There is nothing to subsidize because our 91/96 UL (94 UL) only contains the same components we use for 100 LL. (but of another purity)

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | July 31, 2010 11:55 AM    Report this comment

JJ, the conversation stopped when you dredged up the old Bonanza owner stereotype to tar me with. Your lack of empathy for the cost sensitivity by owners of existing high performance aircraft, and your use of language, lead me to expect you're a young fellow who is either renting or borrowing someone else's plane, and therefore the only real expense you see is at the fuel pump. You can leave that impression, or not. Maybe you own something slow and uncomplicated (my PA-28 maintenance was never painful) and just have not seen the expenses of a complex, high performance aircraft up close.

Lars, I would love to have a turbo, but it adds a chunk of expense at every annual and it's yet another high ticket item that has to be budgeted for replacement. Not to mention the $45K+ price to install and the $35K OH that would probably go along with it.

If I owned a petrochemical company I probably wouldn't worry about such expenses, but $80K is not a viable option unless I want to sell the house I expect to retire to; the plane would go first. I have the plane I have and it fits my needs as is.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 31, 2010 12:52 PM    Report this comment

Greg: with the dual fuel solution you will be fine with 100 LL durings its demise but at a higher cost per gallon than for the 94 UL. Perhaps you might take the step to upgrade to a turbo at next overhaul? It is not just money in the sea - it will give your aircraft better performance, lower fuel cost, higher second hand market value etc. The real disadvantages I see is that some airports will chose only 94 UL and with a 100 LL engine you might not be able to refill everywhere you want. see also an interesting PPP from BP slide 14 outlines the dual fuel issue.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | July 31, 2010 1:11 PM    Report this comment

Greg - I think you fit the profile perfectly. If you can't afford to upgrade your airplane, and you're unwilling to accept any reduction in power, you are the one who doesn't understand the cost of owning a complex airplane. Flying an airplane is expensive - flying a complex high performance single is breathtaking. Ask a person who owns an Apache who just parted out their aircraft because they had to replace the props on their airplane due to an AD, and it cost 40k. Or the 210 owner who spent 20k on landing gear saddles. Or the guy I know with a Navajo who is debating scrapping it because of needing a $45k engine overhaul on an airplane that might not bring much more nowadays. Or the Bonanza owner who's buying bolts and bushings for their landing gear scissor links for a grand a piece. You remind me of the guys who bring an airplane in for me to work on and go ballistic over a $3000 annual then go drop 20k at the avionics shop - when I've been fixing safety of flight issues that should have been dealt with years ago. My issue with your point isn't over aircraft mods - it's that you can't live with 10 less horsepower - and you want all the renters, flight schools, and 135 operators who actually use their airplanes to pay for much more expensive fuel so you can get your whole 285 horsepower. Not that your Bonanza would fly too bad on 270 hp. And I can back it up that you'll be in that range HP wise based upon TCDS comparisons of similar engines.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 31, 2010 1:39 PM    Report this comment

Oh, and as for my flight experience, I've got lots of experience in all three of these fields I've mentioned. I've got in excess of 2000 hours, way more flight time than is needed to go to the airlines or corporate jobs, it's just that I love GA, and paying an extra $1 - $2 a gallon just might be the end of the type flying I enjoy!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 31, 2010 1:40 PM    Report this comment

Gentlemen...please enjoy a spirited discussion. But let's turn the temperature down a little. No need to let the nastiness creep in. Thanks.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 31, 2010 7:08 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I appreciate the call for restraint but I think it's been instructive. JJ is writing from a point of view, and it does seem he has an ugly template for his Beechcraft customers, perhaps because he's the one getting passed.

I'm familiar with the costs of a complex single and have not been unduly surprised. Painful as they were and contrary to JJ's characterization, I didn't go ballistic with the $11K annual last year (much deferred maintenance from the previous owner), the $4000 annual this year, or the ruddervator strip, etch and repaint that will be in the very near future to forestall corrosion claiming the magnesium. I even spent the money to have an ABS Service Clinic inspector (who prescribed the ruddervator treatment) and a TCM factory mechanic go over the plane just before the annual.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | August 2, 2010 8:11 PM    Report this comment

Now, had TCM, when they announced their support for 94UL, come out with all the information JJ claims is true, and provided operating guidelines for their existing engines with this new fuel of the future, or at least the future TCM was dreaming of, they might have gotten some support from owners. But they didn't, and they still have not, come clean regarding the operational requirements with fuel with 6 less octane than my plane was certified with, and until they do, I'll have to take a grain of salt with any claims from an a&P with a nice old /G Skyhawk that conflicts with a clear message from Lycoming that the performance hits would be huge.

BTW, JJ, I took a year and a half to find a Bonanza with a solid airframe and a decent engine that had most all the avionics I'd ever want already installed and got a few goodies I thought I'd never have; no avionics shop is expecting a revenue opportunity from my direction. For now, I have the money to fly the plane I have, and it should fit my needs until I can no longer pass an FAA physical, 20 years or more if I'm very lucky. I just don't have the $40K to $80K that you and Lars think I should be happy to spend to make your lives more pleasant and profitable.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | August 2, 2010 8:13 PM    Report this comment

JJ seems to think Bonanza owners are made of money, wanting the latest toys while scrimping on maintenance. That doesn't fit me or any of my friends.

"Let us develop the standards so that we will have an easily deliverable safe efficient fuel that performs just like 100 leaded fuel does today..." The Administrator now has it right. GAMI continues to claim, based on current pricing of all the components of their fuel, all of which are in production, the fuel should cost about the same as 100LL does. Scare stories to the contrary seem to date from the Swift mention of their prototype costs using their biomass technology. Unless and until the 100UL fuels are proven to be uneconomical compared to 100LL, 94UL should be be abandoned.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | August 2, 2010 8:17 PM    Report this comment

Lars - thanks for the link. The dual fuel concept you are referring to is what we had in the US from '78 to '88 as we phased out leaded autogas. There are posts on this blog inferring that some would carry a tank of each on the plane and use unleaded near airports to not arouse air monitors and swithc to 100LL in cruise where nobody's watching - which runs counter to the detonation margins needed for those to phases of flight. There had to be a similar situation when the USA switched from whatever preceeded 100LL, so it's been done before, just add money.

As a general comment, 100LL has gone from about $1.50 a gallon in 1989 to $4.70/gal and higher where I buy it. That 300% increase over a decade probably also applies to augogas and diesel, but the thought of unnecessarily increasing the cost with no benefit when the economy is staggering from one recession to the next just seems misdirected.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | August 2, 2010 10:21 PM    Report this comment

Tom - a 94 UL AVGAS (Hjelmco 91/96 UL) is cheaper to produce, handle and distribute than 100 LL. With the demise of old 100 LL aircraft and the rise of aircraft with Rotax engines and and the already existing fleet of aircraft engines that are certified to burn 91/96 the future volumes are in this segment. In Sweden we have had the dual AVGAS concept since the 1960:es - the change was that we removed leaded AVGAS 80/87 in 1981 to unleaded AVGAS 80 and then changed from unleaded AVGAS 80 to unleaded AVGAS 91/96 UL (94UL) in 1991. Now we can see that many airports in Sweden don,t even consider having AVGAS 100 LL any more -- there is no demand. As EPA in the US monitors air quality and lead in air is mainly a problem in high density populated areas with lots of GA traffic - a dual fuel concept would be used there, those that need 100 LL continue to use 100 LL those that have engines certificated for 91/96 (94UL) refuel that fuel. At small GA airports with in low populated areas the fuel at the pump would be the choice of that aiport manager or FBO based on the demand. You also have to note that unleaded AVGAS gives the engines accepting this fuel about 20 % longer TBO compared to 100 LL- because introducing metals into valve systems is never good. That in addition to lower fuel costs in Sweden has made the unleaded AVGAS the fuel of choice. You can go into our webb page and look at the map yourself.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | August 3, 2010 2:55 AM    Report this comment

I think what's kind of neat is that in Sweden the high octane owners still have an option as well as the low octane users can save some money. If anyone can tell me the problem with this plan - i'm all ears.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | August 3, 2010 11:20 AM    Report this comment

Oh, and Greg, I've got to say I'm proud of you. You've single-handedly managed to uncover the fact that I've got a 172. Way to go! You've figured out how I make 0% of my income in Aviation and enjoy my free time! Great detective work! I don't understand why you insist on making this personal against me. I don't think I can do much good here. However, if you're looking to sell that Bonanza because you can't afford $10 a gallon 100UL, look me up!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | August 3, 2010 12:16 PM    Report this comment

Oh, and Greg, I've got to say I'm proud of you. You've single-handedly managed to uncover the fact that I've got a 172. Way to go! You've figured out how I make 0% of my income in Aviation and enjoy my free time! Great detective work! I don't understand why you insist on making this personal against me. I don't think I can do much good here. However, if you're looking to sell that Bonanza because you can't afford $10 a gallon 100UL, look me up!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | August 3, 2010 12:17 PM    Report this comment

>>kind of neat in Sweden<<

Wanna move to Sweden? Sorry, just kidding, but I thought we have beaten this horse to a rather bloody pulp. A big concern is them is the capital cost of installing dual fuel systems against declining sales. It may work just dandy in Sweden. That doesn't mean it works here.

I do not accept Lars' claim that 94UL would be cheaper, regardless of that being true in Sweden. We aren't dealing with the same markets. TEL is a dirt cheap octane enhancer--like about a nickle a gallon--that's 2 percent on the refinery-out cost and about 1.4 percent on the current wholesale price of avgas.

If you don't have that cheap lead then you make up the octane with higher quality alkylate. Some refiners have this, some don't. Those that don't will either invest in it or just not enter the market. One refiner told me their 94UL would be more expensive if they even stayed in the market. Octane is not in demand for autogas. Aviation is the main demand. The fact that it's low volume doesn't help.

Saving money on the transportation is probably a misnomer, too. With sufficient volume, pipeline transport is the most efficient means of moving fuel. But aviation fuel will continue to be small volume and probably unlikely to move enough via pipeline to move the prices much. A major east coast aviation fuel distributor told us he would still used a dedicated fleet to move avgas whether leaded or not because he wants to avoid contaminating avgas with a lower-grade product.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 3, 2010 12:18 PM    Report this comment

Paul - it is evident that the US market, operators, et. al . you are referring to have a lot to learn. I have run a network of 100 + airports for 30 years. I know the figures.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | August 3, 2010 1:09 PM    Report this comment

Well, Lars, I'm sure they would be delighted to have you come over and school them. Just tell them where to meet...

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 3, 2010 1:44 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I think Lars' statement "With the demise of old 100 LL aircraft" is key to the Swedish situation. In the US, we have new and old 100LL aircraft to contend with, over a much larger geographical area. Sweden is about the size of California, with the population of Los Angeles County.

It appears what the US operators first need to understand is how to hasten the demise of 100LL aircraft so the Swedish knowledge will apply.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | August 3, 2010 2:36 PM    Report this comment

I like Lars proposal - but not that I think 94UL will be cheaper. I'm hoping that it will just not be more expensive than 100LL. My concern over the prices of Swift and GAMI are basic economics 101. Right now, we've got a huge surplus of production capacity for 100LL and a number of players in the refining business (except the lead, of course) If the refiners wanted to increase 100LL output ten fold, it would be relatively easy (they'd have to run their refineries for 10 days instead of one.) Now assume that Swift or GAMI own the exclusive rights to this fuel. We've got one guy with the formula - what do you think is gonna happen to the price of fuel in this scenario? If you think it'll be the same as 100LL, I've got a bridge to sell you. Additionally, I've been around long enough to know that "the next best thing" released at Oshkosh often doesn't happen. Think about the Eclipse 500, Adam Jet, the list goes on. All I've heard from Swift and GAMI is how good their fuel is, the test cell runs, and how it is cost competitive with 100LL. I want to see the formula and let's dissect it and see if it can be produced economically. If they have a patent pending - they should be pretty safe that we won't steal their secret formula. The fact we haven't seen it yet makes me really suspicious that this is a ploy to get investors.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | August 3, 2010 2:37 PM    Report this comment

>>I want to see the formula and let's dissect it and see if it can be produced economically. If they have a patent pending - they should be pretty safe that we won't steal their secret formula. The fact we haven't seen it yet makes me really suspicious that this is a ploy to get investors.<<

Huh? Swift's patents are fully visible for you to examine. Nothing secret about them. I have done the analysis, including the latest cost estimates. I have written about this several times.

Basically, unless they have changed it, the formula is 80 percent acetone-derived mesitylene and 20 percent isopentane, or thereabouts. Go forth on the internet and find an organic chemist and you can take a reasonable run at it. But don't accuse them of having some secret formula. You can certainly question their cost assumptions.

GAMI's patents will be visible soon enough. Again, no secret formulas.

The trick is scaling it up to refinery scale and producing it at competitive prices. This is the larger unknown than the formulas.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 3, 2010 3:32 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I think Lars' statement "With the demise of old 100 LL aircraft" is key to the Swedish situation. In the US, we have new and old 100LL aircraft to contend with, over a much larger geographical area. Sweden is about the size of California, with the population of Los Angeles County.<<

We are still making airplanes today that require 100-octane fuel. The entire Cirrus line, for instance, Cessna 206s, Piper Saratogas, to name a few. They are not going to be happy on anything less.

Not to be hopelessly xenophobic, but when Lars says "I know my figures" and then he does not provide those figures makes realistic analysis difficult. I have asked him for refinery-out costs for various fuels and he has declined to provide them for the Swedish model. Fair enough. These things are proprietary.

Perhaps what needs to be done is to educate the typical U.S. FBO on how much money he can make by investing in a dual fuel system. Maybe they really are dumb. If so, Lars needs to show them *with actual numbers that work for their circumstances.*

I really remain open minded on this but I do me.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 3, 2010 3:43 PM    Report this comment

>>The trick is scaling it up to refinery scale and producing it at competitive prices.<< AND getting it certified. Not a sure thing. I'm really hoping that the 100UL can be certified and is cost effective, but as it's been mentioned in other pumps about engine mods, we really won't know until the stuff is available. Until then, I'm open to just about anything, and am glad that at least TCM is seeing what we're in for if the future is 94UL.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | August 3, 2010 3:50 PM    Report this comment

I meant posts about engine mods. Sorry

Posted by: Josh Johnson | August 3, 2010 4:00 PM    Report this comment

Paul - you have the power as an editor to write what people might read. Why don,t you tell the full story - I have invited you long time ago to visit Sweden and see for yourself how it is organized. I don,t have to prove anything - because all that has been done the last 30 years are facts --- it has already happended. What you refer to when you refer to about the US market - you refer to something that someone thinks would be an outcome. So that,s not the fact - that all is open for opinions -- and of course that is the purpose if you ask someone representing a company.

Paul are also very arrogant - when you say I should come over and school your industry ... Do read it again and think if this is not an abuse of power, the power you have as an editor ?

When I was young the US car industry were world leaders -- until someone else showed the world - that was not the truth. And a coupple of years ago -- almost the entire US car industry was bankcrupt.

Paul you don,t believe what I am saying -- and you don,t have to -- any investigating journalist -- would find out facts about what already has happened - that,s so easy.

I can provide every single price-list of AVGAS for all oil companies in Sweden dated since 1981 showing unleaded AVGAS has been priced lower than 100 LL for 29 years. What more Paul do you want to see?

I request an appology from you Paul.

You can research the internet who I am.

For me you now have an image problem - Paul!

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | August 3, 2010 4:35 PM    Report this comment

Apology extended. Really. I think you misread what I intended. On the other hand, you did say our operators over here have a lot to learn. That is tantamount to saying they don't know what they're doing.

OK, if that's so...come over and show them. Seems fair to me.You say you're successful with your model. Tell us more.

What I'd like to know is refinery-out numbers for your various products so I can compare them in meaningful ways to U.S. prices. What about FBO markups? This can be done in the background. But it is the only way I can legitimately compare what you say against the U.S. reality. Otherwise, it's he sez, she sez.

If my travel budget--and personal time allowed for it--I'd happily come to Sweden. But neither does.

Seriously, Lars, don't take offense. I think the questions are legitimate and deserve answers without questioning my supposed authority as an editor. That and five bucks will get me a latte at Starbucks.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 3, 2010 4:54 PM    Report this comment

JJ, in the wake of OSH, even TCM is now distancing themselves from their previous 94UL stance and is about to receive a shipment of G100UL for testing. The president of TCM, talking to one Bonanza owner, "claimed that the 94UL fuel had only been identified by TCM as an immediate 100LL replacement fuel in the event that 100LL went away sooner than later. He specifically stated that TCM was NOT endorsing 94UL, and that they simply considered it one of several potential 100LL replacement fuels. He characterized the aviation media reports to the contrary as 'overblown' (his words)...claimed that TCM was making a good faith effort to support the 'best' available solution to the 100LL issue. When I pressed him to define that term, he said 'zero loss of engine performance at the best possible price' "

Your view of patents and licensing is faulty. I've been through this a number of times in the high tech world... every new standard has intellectual property issues, and everyone with a patent claim declare them before adoption and agree to a reasonable and uniform fee before the standard is passed. No favoritism. My *guess* is that if G100UL is adopted as a standard fuel, GAMI would agree to get a single digit cents per gallon for all fuel made, payable by the refinery. *ANY* company that wanted to make it would have the same known cost, and GAMI would not be in a position to play favorites or block other fuel formulations not covered by their patents.

Let the STC's begin.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | August 3, 2010 5:21 PM    Report this comment

Greg - I hope you're right. I like TCM's "best available solution to 100LL issue" In fact, I agree with the entire statement you said that TCM is making.

We can't overlook the economics part to the replacement fuel. Our current fuel prices are choking GA - with the recession and fuel costs combined I'm seeing airplanes with 5 hours per year coming in for annual becoming the norm. This HAS to change.

As for patents, I don't know squat about them - just what I've heard.

Again, hope it works, glad TCM is looking into 94UL, glad they're getting a shipment of G100UL. Not gonna call a winner until we've got a winner though.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | August 3, 2010 6:05 PM    Report this comment

It would be easier to accept the TCM statement reportedly made in their OSH booth to an individual owner if it didn't substantially conflict with reported earlier statements and actions by TCM, but "overblown" is a great way to claim a misunderstanding with asserting an error. Plausible deniability.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | August 3, 2010 8:13 PM    Report this comment

That should have read ""overblown" is a great way to claim a misunderstanding *without* asserting an error. Plausible deniability.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | August 3, 2010 8:19 PM    Report this comment

Paul- When I say they have a lot to learn - this means the have a lot to learn - it does not mean they don,t know what they are doing. We made the transition to unleaded AVGAS 30 years ago and we have learnt a lot during these 30 years to efficiently run the operations and we are still learning because the environment around us is constantly changing. The end thing is that the fuel customer has trough us had a lower price of unleaded AVGAS for almost 30 years compared to buying leaded AVGAS from us or ANY other AVGAS supplier in Sweden. We have 30 years of official price-lists to end-customers for example at Stockholm Bromma airport (major GA airport in the capital of Sweden). These prices are very easy to compare to prove this fact.

Regarding mesitylene as a component in AVGAS - an US report DOT/FAA/CT-93/65 from March 1994 did state that this component "while reported having high MON, it did not prove effective in blends of aviation alkylate and ether" (page 27)

So mesitylene has been tested under a programme sponsored by the FAA already 17 years ago. As far as I understand it they did not find it usable (based on trying to find an unleaded fuel meeting the current standard ???) The Swift fuel as described earlier is said not to contain ether or alkylate so perhaps they have found something new that was not tested in 1993.

As said before I applaud everyone that is turning any stone to find the best solution.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | August 4, 2010 2:01 AM    Report this comment


Regarding the 94 UL: As far as I know this is an ASTM ongoing project (confirmed at the ASTM June/July 2010 meeting) and it is chaired by the chief engineer of TCM.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | August 4, 2010 2:03 AM    Report this comment

I agree that the reporting on TCM's 94UL hasn't been overblown. In fact, on this very forum I quoted TCM's Johnny Doo to the effect that the company wasn't wedded to 94UL, but that it considered it worth examining. That is a fair statement. It is also a rational business decision.

Second, TCM left us with the impression in May that they didn't care what fuel was selected, they just wanted a quick decision so they could get on with business planning. I reported that, too. You can hear the podcast with Bill Brogdan on Avweb (

This is a fair representation.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 4, 2010 12:57 PM    Report this comment

Several things. Previous iterations of testing with mesitylene considered it as an *additive* not a component, binary or otherwise. This is a significant difference and no one until Swift came along had tried it.

Further, what's different about GAMI's approach is that it is full-scale engine, actual detonation performance-based work, not MON octane-based. This is an important difference that most people do not grasp.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 4, 2010 1:02 PM    Report this comment

Lars, let's illuminate this with numbers so we can understand what differences might exist between your economics and North American economics.

Let's start with the current wholesale price of U.S. avgas, which is $3.50, give or take. Wholesale means that's what the FBO pays the man in the truck.

Current refinery out price is about $2.25 in the North American market, give or take and depending on crude prices, which are floating around $70. Refinery out is what the refiner gets paid and I believe it reflect the terminal price, which accounts for storage costs. Avgas is batched and stored, so storing is does add costs.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 4, 2010 1:10 PM    Report this comment

The wholesale markup is between $1.25 and $1.50 and is the cut taken by the jobber or distributor who picks the gas up and delivers it to the airport. The airport then adds its own flowage fee to arrive at the current retail, which is between $3.90 and $4.70. Some add more, some a little less.

My guess is the Swedish model is more vertical than this. I would further guess that the structures and finances that support airports are different in Sweden than in the U.S. Do you have a lot of Mom and Pop FBOs who depend entirely on fuel sales to stay alive? If so, they must be even more marginal businesses than in the U.S., given the small volumes you use. Do governments funds local airports?

My point is, we cannot logically react to your 30-year history of success of even consider it as a template for North America until and unless we understand these basic economics.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 4, 2010 1:18 PM    Report this comment


Another significant cost is the trucking and/or barging as pipelines cannot be used (currently). IIRC, Phillips/Conoco barges avgas from their refinery somewhere in the south to somewhere near Albany NY to provide the North East.

I'm guessing that will still be the means of delivery for any future avgas, as most pipelines will be used with mogas ethanol blends.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | August 4, 2010 1:22 PM    Report this comment

Actually, Edd, the transportation appears not to be a major part of avgas cost, or so I am told. It obviously does add some cost. The larger drivers are low volume and the pricey alkylates for the basestock. And by the way, ethanol fuels are not moved via pipeline. It's added at the terminal and is likely trucked in or delivered by rail.

Either way, truck, rail and marine continue to be the major delivery modes.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 4, 2010 1:33 PM    Report this comment

The GAMI,s approach confirms findings Hjelmco gave words for several years ago that MON does not give the full picture. It has also during several years been advocated by Shell. See also.

Regarding production costs etc we have talked about this before Paul -- we are not going to give away any numbers in the similar way as Coca Coca never would give away any figures to a consumer paper just because they claim their production costs are lower and thus prices for the end-user lower than for ex. when compared to Pepsi.

Assuming the Swedish AVGAS market is/was not rigged in any way by the competitors (Exxon, Statoil, AIR BP and Shell) of Hjelmco - during all these years, published price lists for end-user for almost 30 years tell the factual thruth.

When you anyone speak to producers of any kind the best for them seems always to be to do nothing and present a mountain of problems that will happen for any change. This is a natual behaviour.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | August 4, 2010 1:36 PM    Report this comment

"....Actually, Edd, the transportation appears not to be a major part of avgas cost,..."

Well, I'm glad you're keeping up with this issue and informing us. Thanks.

Do you know of a Paul Millner of Chevron? I'm told he is a career engineer at Chevron who seems to be making presentations re avgas and its future.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | August 4, 2010 1:44 PM    Report this comment

I know Paul well. Just talked to him an hour ago. He reviews all of my technical reporting, as does another petro head I know.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 4, 2010 1:58 PM    Report this comment

Regarding organisations in Sweden to retail fuels -- the price- lists I refer to are end user price lists for fuels filled by the respective oil companies own staff into plane. There are no FBO:s involved - actually there is only one in Sweden - but they are not licensed to sell fuels.. There was for some years a turnover tax at the airports that was equeal for same products for each company - but that will not distort the competition. Recently changes has been made to the retail organisations where Hjelmco:s competitors work together in a joint owned fill into plane company at Stockholm Bromma airport as earlier indicated - but this does also not distort the picture as the manual work to fill into plane is now made by the pilots themselves. Filling stations are self service stations today.

It is always more expensive to handle a leaded product than an unleaded product. Anyone that has experience in the logistical matters understand. A leaded product for ex. must be transported in a chemical tanker ship with special cleaning facilities -- this is not the case with unleaded gasoline. Dedicated pipe lines at seaports for leaded fuels are necessary and storage of leaded products cannot take place as easy as with unleaded products. You just cannot change tank that easy. Fuel trucks can one day go with unleaded car gasoline and the next day with unleaded AVGAS. There is no lead to be afraid of from the previous shipment and trucks then must not be specially cleaned.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | August 4, 2010 1:58 PM    Report this comment

cont, Just to handle lead at a refinery is a mess with regulatory requirements and special hazard rules in order.

Believe me -- it so much easier and cheaper to handle an unleaded product.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | August 4, 2010 1:59 PM    Report this comment

Lars--I understand. But then I'm sure you also understand the knee-jerk skepticism. My best guess is that the Swedish model exists on a more vertical structure with different margins.

Maybe that doesn't make it a showstopper for North America. But it explains why it might not be a slam dunk, either.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 4, 2010 2:04 PM    Report this comment

"...I know Paul well. Just talked to him an hour ago..."

Thanks, I guess he will be worth listening to if I can get to his talk Aug 14.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | August 5, 2010 11:54 AM    Report this comment

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