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Fuel Fight: It's About Time

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Seven years seems like a long time. By 2017, there will be 30 million more of us in the U.S. and demographic and economic shifts will be profound. That's also the year, at the latest, that leaded aviation gasoline will, by government fiat, disappear. It if doesn't happen sooner. Or if would-be buyers of airplanes just decide that there's just too much uncertainty in the fuels market to fool around with expensive airplanes at all. Or if refiners decide the same thing, scrap their lead units, and make car gas instead. Even if one or two do that, the impact will be significant.

That's about where we are now, actually. Cirrus's recent introduction of the SR22T as a high-performance airplane that will burn 94UL is one sharp edge of that wedge of uncertainty. An e-mail I got last month from a reader asking me if an overhaul of an IO-540 in 2010 is worth the investment is another. He's convinced fuel won't be available for it. Convinced. I'm sure there are others like him and there will be many more.

And this explains why it's so critical to have a rousing, open debate about what the future fuel for piston aircraft will be and to have it now. We shouldn't be relying entirely on industry groups and alphabets to oversee this challenge because they are tangled up in that distant date and enthralled with the minutia of EPA procedures. That's now nothing but a sideshow, since we have agreed that lead has to go. Whether it represents a health hazard or not is now immaterial.

The wakeup call on the market overhang thing came last week when the industry's FAST future fuels group heard from the Clean 100-Octane Coalition, which made it clear that 94UL is the wrong choice. Lycoming has said the same. Continental says the opposite. Does this sound like a time to stifle debate?

Yet some people in the industry think that. Some owners are utterly disengaged and the CEOs of two major manufacturers admitted to me that they haven't been paying close attention to the avgas challenge. Seven years seems so far off. But put a sharp pencil on it and it's not seven years: 2010 is already gone and for market clarity and confidence, buyers will need credible evidence that the solution is coming much sooner. Pick a year. I pick 2013, with fuel ready to make and deliver—or at least visible—by 2015. That's four years off and is probably later than it should be.

The emergence of intense grassroots interest in the fuel debate comes not a moment too soon. Committees who don't have to make and sell aircraft in a world defined by harsh economics understand the challenge, but I don't think they get the timing because they don't have to worry about the next quarter's numbers. Nor do they get how worried owners of high-performance airplanes are about their assets.

I'd like to see more real-world demonstration projects. Continental says the SR22T will run on 94UL. Let's get a demo airplane touring the country to prove it. Let's see some draft POHs so we can judge performance shortfalls. Let's get GAMI's request for an STC fleet test of its G100UL approved, like tomorrow. Let's reach out and encourage Swift with the same offer to fleet test its 100SF, rather than relying on one or two Cessnas in experimental.

Although it may be troubling to see what is effectively the Balkanization of general aviation interests over the fuel issue, it's actually a good thing. At least it's good that we're having the discussion now rather than delaying it much longer to the point that it will become a larger crisis than it already is. This is what happens when no one is minding the store, when no single entity is pushing hard on all practical aspects of the solution. Owners are taking this into their own hands because they don't have a choice.

Unfortunately, as this unfolds and the various interests defend their views and turf, we will all be subjected to disinformation, distortion and obfuscation. The politics surrounding the fuel choice aren't quite on the Capitol Hill league, but they're close. I've been in journalism for more than three decades and I can't recall having been subjected to so much loaded information—it's not that it's wrong, exactly, but some of it simply conveniently ignores countervailing facts that don't support the favored argument. I'm doing my best to sort through this thicket objectively.

My own view is that at this stage, all of the options need to be on the table and should be rigorously examined. And quickly. Let's not ignore something because of the ridiculous notion that our hopes might be dashed by yet another unsuitable choice. Let's get off elevating flyspeck regulatory considerations above the critical task of simply finding a fuel that actually works. Let's stop using the glacially slow ASTM process as a crutch for inaction. Let's not be so afraid to blister the FAA on its lack of engagement and foot dragging on fuel development and approval. Why is everyone so afraid of the Engine and Propeller Directorate?

For those who think we're going to eventually join hands here and sing campfire songs about the magic of aviation, forget it. We have to have the fight first—call it a discussion, if you prefer—before ever getting to the point of coalescing into something visible enough to vaguely qualify as market forces that refiners can respond to. I think owners and operators are just getting to the point of understanding what's at stake well enough to form an opinion that might eventually morph into what will drive the fuel decision: expressed demand for a stated type of fuel.

We're not there yet. Getting there is likely to be a bumpy ride that's not going to be pretty. But the sooner we get serious about this—and thus far we haven't—the sooner we will have a workable solution. But time is a factor here and as an industry, we're burning it.

And by the way, I was unrestrained in my criticism of many working on the fuel problem in last week's blog. In the spirit of free debate, this blog space is open to replies and opinions from anyone in the field. You should have access to this audience. You can be as laceratingly critical of me as you'd like. Just contact me by e-mail and I'll move it forward.

Comments (105)

$6.00 a gallon fuel? Don't even bother. We already have fuel for a big part of the fleet. Problem is they send it out with ethanol in it. Seems as though the local FBO's could increase their bottom line by sharing a tanker or two of ethanol free. But $6.00 a gallon fuel will cause the wings to come off and get hung in the garage waiting for the next great idea. I fly for fun and $6.00's a gallon ain't fun. Jim

Posted by: Jim Doody | July 5, 2010 6:55 AM    Report this comment

The GA industry and the alphabet groups had better get their act together and find a seamless replacement for 100LL that doesn't require a major change to the production and delivery infrastructure, because the incentive is just not there to overhaul the whole system for a boutique fuel. If they don't, then we'll be looking at major, expensive modifications to a lot airplanes to work-around other fuels. If that happens, just like the inquiry about whether it is worth it to overhaul an IO-540, a lot of GA will just say "to hell with it" and you'll see a much worse aviation market as everyone dumps their planes ... it'll make the housing market look fantastic in comparison! The steady erosion of affordability in flying - acquisition, fuel costs, hangarage, maintenance, insurance, gps databases, satellite weather subscriptions, etc. - is killing GA. Steep fuel cost increases and/or expensive modifications of engines will quicken GA's demise. I think there's a good chance in 10 years we'll be much like some of Europe - those who truly love to fly will be flying ultralight aircraft, experimentals, or gliders, because that's all they can afford!

Posted by: John Austin | July 5, 2010 7:14 AM    Report this comment

Its much like the typical govt thing requireing an STC to burn mogas in conventional aircraft. I used reg unleaded in my experimental RV6a O-320 untill the poorly thought out mandate to put corn whisky in the gas forced me to go to sparkplug fouling 100ll. Fortunately my fbo, FYV found a supplier of eth free 91 oct. Sorry to say, I have found no mogas any other place I have flown, or checked.

Posted by: charles heathco | July 5, 2010 7:35 AM    Report this comment

You state near the beginning: "Whether it represents a health hazard or not is now immaterial."

It is not immaterial. If there is no valid safety hazard then this process may cripple GA for no reason.

When 100LL hit $5 a gallon, my flying when from 250 hours a year to perhaps 150 hours a year. If it hits $6 a gallon, maybe I stop flying.

Posted by: Ron Lee | July 5, 2010 8:04 AM    Report this comment

Good luck arguing against lead not being a health hazard. And that's why doing so is pointless. Not a single person I have spoken to about this believes that reasoning can prevail against EPA efforts. So why waste the time making it?

By the way, I am unimpressed with the data suggesting that aircraft fuel is a meaningful pollutant. I think it's bad public policy to eliminate it from avgas. But it's going to happen anyway. So let's get on with it.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 5, 2010 8:13 AM    Report this comment

I agree with you--it's about time this discussion happened Frankly I don't know why the oil industry hadn't forced this issue long ago. Total annual production of avgas is less than one day's production of auto fuel. And it's much harder to deal with because of the lead. It's time to come up with something better.

In addiction to looking at fuel alternatives, I think it's time for new engine alternatives as well. I've been hoping for a reasonable diesel but so far that hasn't materialized. Small inexpensive turboprops could also find a use. But as with fuel, the FAA has made it too expensive to get new technology certified. So aviation stagnates. At leaser until we get a "crisis" to push us along.

Posted by: Richard Beebe | July 5, 2010 9:19 AM    Report this comment

Paul:

I find myself in full agreement with you. Since GAMI's G100UL and SwiftFuel are the possible answers furthest along, we need to get significant testing hours in a diverse fleet of aircraft logged for those fuels ASAP.

Who, if anyone, is in a position to pressure FAA to stop being a half-tide rock impeding the flow of progress?

Frank

Posted by: Frank Van Haste | July 5, 2010 9:21 AM    Report this comment

Paul, It is not the EPA making this decision, but instead the uninformed, special interest groups that have the administration’s ear. The EPA’s experience at the Leadville, CO. superfund site is one where they made decisions about lead compounds that ran counter to conventional thinking.

I agree that argument won’t help the avgas issue in the time available. What we need is an STC that shows ethanol laced fuel will work in certain aircraft and not make them self destruct like the current scare tactics of the FAA. Or how about a detuning kit for engines that reduces compression ratio allowing them to run on lower RON fuel.

Dick Merrill

Posted by: Dick Merrill | July 5, 2010 9:24 AM    Report this comment

I agree with the comments that 6 bucks a gallon will be the end of flying for me. Whether or not GAMI works, they DO have a valid point in their business model that includes the marine industry which increases the chances for a more reasonable price. Trouble is, Lycoming will NEVER approve any new fuel types to burn in their existing engines, as they want to sell everybody one of their new electronic engines. You can bet that is the advice that their lawyers are giving them.

Posted by: Art Ahrens | July 5, 2010 10:19 AM    Report this comment

Paul, It is not the EPA making this decision, but instead the uninformed, special interest groups that have the administration’s ear.<<

The Friends of the Earth--the special interest to whom you refer--has not so much the administrator's ear as a filed lawsuit to move the EPA on the lead issue.

Revisions to the Clean Air Act's standards have lower lead requirements and this is an entirely separate initiative from the FOE suit. Suffice to say to fight this is a two-front war which there is little hope of winning.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 5, 2010 11:02 AM    Report this comment

Trouble is, Lycoming will NEVER approve any new fuel types to burn in their existing engines, as they want to sell everybody one of their new electronic engines.<<

Not sure how you can support this statement. Lycoming is on record for supporting development of new 100-octane fuels without lead. Lycoming is on record saying its electronic engine won't make up a seven to nine octane deficit. So if it wanted to sell electronic engines, it would say just the reverse and hope for the best with lower octane gas.

Continental favors a quick-approval lower octane fuel, arguing that engine modifications, operating limitations and FADEC can make up the octane shortfall.

That, at the moment, appears to be the on-the-record point of divergence.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 5, 2010 11:17 AM    Report this comment

I think getting behind AOPA efforts will be the best approach. They can work with the EAA and present positions backed by a large constituency. And, for the good of the entire aviation community, the AOPA efforts should only be towards a drop-in replacement for 100LL.

I understand the FAA will issue STCs for testing 100SF and G100UL when both companies receive preliminary approval from ASTM. Swift is in this process and GAMI should be if they are not. Start the race to the top!

The ASTM issue will not go away. I cannot imagine the FAA backing away from an ASTM cover. One should note that there would probably not be an LSA approval process if not for the ASTM Standard.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 5, 2010 12:11 PM    Report this comment

I'm still curious why no one is looking at Sunoco 260 GTX:

http://www.sunocoinc.com/Site/Consumer/RaceFuels/UnleadedFuels/Sunoco260GTX.htm

It's a high-octane unleaded fuel that we switched to in NASCAR a few years ago (I am a NASCAR engine R&D engineer) with no modifications to our very high performance 12:1 compression engines.

Posted by: Matthew Carson | July 5, 2010 1:56 PM    Report this comment

"Or if refiners decide the same thing, scrap their lead units, and make car gas instead. Even if one or two do that, the impact will be significant." First you would have to actually know how much 100 LL avgas is made, how much is consumed and how much is needed. These are three different statistics and nobody knows them. FAA claims as much as 350 million gallons, EIA says about 180 million gallons. If you then subtracted the amount that is used by airplanes that don't need 100 octane gasoline but could run on premium unleaded auto gas, it could be as low as 120 million gallons/yr. To understand this conundrum see: http://www.flyunleaded.com/100octanphalacy.php According to this article in 2007: http://www.ainonline.com/news/single-news-page/article/avgas-production-stays-stable-11298/ four companies produced 100 LL in about 10 refineries. No telling how many still do because nobody knows how much we use.

Posted by: Dean Billing | July 5, 2010 2:06 PM    Report this comment

The amount of avgas being produced and burned is a knowable thing. If I had a couple of days, I could get a better estimate of it. You just have to get outside the standard industry channels which, I suspect, are based on estimates not direct surveys.

I think the total is less important than what individual refineries make and sell because they operate and market independently. If they can make money at avgas, one can reasonably assume they'll continue to make it.

I think your dual fuel idea is an absolute dead duck economically. But I submit that the discussion needs to be had. Maybe there's a groundswell of support for it and FBOs could make money at it.

You need to form your own coalition. Then maybe we could find out. Seriously.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 5, 2010 3:19 PM    Report this comment

Paul - "You need to form your own coalition. Then maybe we could find out. Seriously." Can you read? Seriously? The links are there in the message. We have formed the coalition. We have done presentations at AV-09, Sun'n Fun and will be doing one at AV-10 and we produce the Fuels Blog on the GAN site: http://www.generalaviationnews.com/?cat=525 Regards -- Dean

Posted by: Dean Billing | July 5, 2010 3:29 PM    Report this comment

I would think the FAA numbers must be reasonably accurate. After all, part of their funding comes from tax on avgas. Well, used to anyway. I'm not sure whether the tax goes into the Federal government coffers now, is skimmed and then passed back.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 5, 2010 3:30 PM    Report this comment

Edd - "I would think the FAA numbers must be reasonably accurate." Why would the EIA, part of DOE, lie about their stats from the producers? FAA has a vested interest in puffing up aviation, makes them look good. I understood their figures were from surveys, not data taken from pumps. I always wondered where they got the data for mogas usage, I have never met anyone who was surveyed.

Posted by: Dean Billing | July 5, 2010 3:43 PM    Report this comment

Dean, yeah, I can read. If you want to trade insults, we can continue doing that. But it would be more productive for you if you reached out and provided contacts and information we can publish. That's what the others are doing and they are getting more coverage than you.

If I don't know about your activities, our readers don't either. I see you come over and post links to your blog, which is fine with me. News stories would draw more attention.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 5, 2010 4:15 PM    Report this comment

It wasn't an insult ... you certainly have a thin skin, especially when you throw out a challenge which I have already been working on for a long time and put "Seriously" after it. I am serious about it. All of the contacts are there, between the web sites I referenced and the blog that I have referenced in the past. It is very difficult to convey much information in this format because it drastically limits your response, so all I can provide are links. Kent Misegades, Todd Petersen and I have been working on unleaded fuel solutions for years and the links are on the sites to the information we provide. Why haven't you reached out to us about our programs?

Posted by: Dean Billing | July 5, 2010 4:28 PM    Report this comment

Todd Petersen is on my list for this week, actually. You should let us know about events at OSH and elsewhere and we will cover these. But we are slammed with stuff and don't always get the chance to reach out. The fuel story has bubbled to the top, but it wasn't there three months ago...for various reasons.

Just so you know, most of the other groups come at us. It helps their cause.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 5, 2010 4:54 PM    Report this comment

I stopped for gas friday at a place supposidly selling non ethanol gas. They had a 104 oct race gas availible, assuming no ethatnol, so why wouldnt that be the answer?

Posted by: charles heathco | July 5, 2010 5:25 PM    Report this comment

Enjoying this latest blog, Paul, thanks. The pro-Mogas and pro-100-octane groups have much in common - we both want the most appropriate fuel at the least overall cost. 70%-80% of all existing legacy piston aircraft will run fine & legally on 91 octane E0. Essentially 100% of the new LSA fleet are powered by new engines designed for the same fuel. It is hard to argue with this, or the impact of $3 fuel, which is the pleasant reality for those of us who use Mogas. A number of refineries have discovered this niche market, with the rapid growth of the PURE-GAS.org listing of gas stations that have E0. Buyers are boaters, snowmobilers, ATV owners, classic car and bike owners, and pilots. Another GA field just added it last week: Page Field in Ft. Meyers. When I spoke with the FBO manager last week, he said they do not expect to make large profits on E0 sales, but see it as an essential service given the growth in the LSA fleet and flight schools. We'll be discussing the many myths surrounding Mogas and some low-cost turnkey fuel tank options as part of our talk, "Fuels for Sport Aviation" on 7/27, 11:30 in Dake I at AirVenture. Glad to provide any other details if you are interested, most are posted at the GAFUELS blog at generalaviationnews.com

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 5, 2010 5:45 PM    Report this comment

"....Why would the EIA, part of DOE, lie about their stats from the producers? FAA has a vested interest in puffing up aviation,..."

I'm not suggesting anyone is lying. The EIA numbers are also done via a sampling survey. They have a pdf on their site that indicates how they arrive at their numbers. I'm not sure anyone knows. All kinds of numbers can be found on the web.

I did read Phllips said on their website that they made ~140 mil gallons/year with ~40 mil exported. One of the other suppliers said they had half the market. Again, no exact source numbers available but they tend to jive with the FAA numbers.

Accurate numbers would be necessary somewhere in all this discussion. How do we get there?

To others promoting no ethanol 100 mogas, Sunoco would have to carry that through ASTM, etc. They don't sell avgas now. And, at the few Sunoco stations that have unleaded 100 octane it is $9.00 gal.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 5, 2010 5:50 PM    Report this comment

105 octane auto fuel and 100 octane avgas are not the same octane - the octane numbers are arrived at differently. Today's 87 octane mogas roughly approximates the octane number of the old 80 Avgas. As for the engine overhauls, I recently advised a Comanche owner to put off overhauling his IO-540 due to the pending fuel crisis, and he did. Same for new purchases - I'd personally avoid buying a 100 octane only aircraft today unless the engines were nearly run out. And for Lycoming refusing to certify a new fuel, they ARE certifying a number of their low compression engines to run on mogas - just too bad you can't buy it anymore!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 5, 2010 6:37 PM    Report this comment

Josh, " - just too bad you can't buy it anymore"

It is not as bad as we once thought, have a look at PURE-GAS.org. This site is going viral, having increased by 50+ stations listed in the past week to over 1100 stations in 41 US states and Candian provinces Several refineries have discovered this niche market, for instance hundreds of "KwikTrip" stores in WI, MN and IA now sell "Recreational Gasoline", 91 octane E0 and they intend to do this indefinitely according to the woman in charge I spoke with last week in their Eau Claire, WI headquarters. Call the station near you and ask who supplies it. Check also at your local marina. Let everyone know there are a large number of pilots eager to buy their product at a premium which is still a bargain compared to 100LL.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 5, 2010 6:45 PM    Report this comment

There are a variety of unleaded racing fuels out there, a couple with motor octane numbers of 99 (combined rating of 104), which is of course higher than the 94UL we see out there.

http://www.bazellracefuels.com/racingfuels.htm

Sure Sunoco or anyone else would have to do ASTM certification but so do Swift fuel and G100UL. And I am sure that the price at retail stations for racing fuel is highly inflated - just because they can, and because it is a relatively small market.

It just frustrates me when I see people in aviation consistently wringing their hands and saying "this can't be done" when there are products out there on the market that could work but haven't been tried. It seems that the aviation industry gets all up in a huff and says "what works for other people isn't good enough for us" without even trying it and then spend a fortune going off in their own direction. It would seem to me to be a good thing to be able to use a fuel that has other uses than aviation - it would both ensure supply and keep prices down.

I just know from first hand experience that there are unleaded fuels out there on the market that work in high performance, high-compression applications, and I haven't seen it documented anywhere that people have tried it in an aviation application. If nothing else it could be a good starting point.

Posted by: Matthew Carson | July 5, 2010 8:16 PM    Report this comment

I think the Marathon recreational gasoline does offer a nice alternative to 100LL for some. In fact, I've got an old 172 that I've flown nearly 800 hours on mogas with no problems. Unfortunately, the high compression guys might very well be screwed (at least without engine mods) To work, we need a combination of reasonably economical fuel with adequate detonation margins. Not so easy

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 5, 2010 8:30 PM    Report this comment

At the Burlington, WI airport, (BUU) the self-serve pumps have the normal octane label we are used to seeing on autogas pumps- you know, the ones that say the octane is (R+M)/2 (the average of Road and Motor ratings). The number, as I recall (I was there 6 months ago) is 116. Not 104, not whatever Sunoco 260 is, but 116. That's the target for a 100LL replacement, using autogas, not anything lower. I use mogas, with an STC, so the demise of 100LL (or 116 octane, R+M/2, if you prefer) may not affect me directly, but I know the loss of infrastructure and downturn of GA would indeed affect me greatly.

Posted by: Tom Lubben | July 5, 2010 10:18 PM    Report this comment

If you look at the history of the effort to find a replacement gas, the ASTM approval has stood like a rock in the stream discouraging possible candidates from going forward because they don't perform exactly like 100LL.

It's almost entirely an artificial paper barrier, this from an industry consensus group that's supposed to be lithe and nimble, moving much faster than plodding government. There's reason to believe that's about to ease up a little, though. Or maybe I'm just delusional.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 6, 2010 3:53 AM    Report this comment

Josh: "Unfortunately, the high compression guys might very well be screwed (at least without engine mods) To work, we need a combination of reasonably economical fuel with adequate detonation margins. Not so easy"

The combination is 91 octane E0 in one tank and 100LL or its 100-octane replacement in a second tank. Put the right fuel in the right airplane, not one single one that is technically inappropriate or unaffordable.

Tom: "but I know the loss of infrastructure and downturn of GA would indeed affect me greatly." Indeed, which is why we need two fuels that are of the correct octane and affordable for two very different groups of flyers/aircraft.

Paul: Mogas has been approved since the 1980s for 70%-80% of all legacy piston aircraft and is the fuel of choice for essentially all new LSA powerplants. We "Mogasers" do sympathize though with all those trying to get a new fuel through the glacially slow certification process. Glad Petersen and the EAA did this for us decades ago.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 6, 2010 7:44 AM    Report this comment

This is why this discussion will inevitably become Balkanized. You can't blame an owner who can burn mogas for wanting to do so. Some will resonate with the argument that buying avgas supports the airport infrastructure and the industry in general, others will look more to isolated self interest.

My Cub can use autogas. We don't have it on the field and for $5 a fill in savings, I'm not about to haul it in. If it mogas were available, I'm not sure if I'd use it or not. I might. I would not push to get it on the field, but I wouldn't oppose it, either.

Bottom line: I want the FBO on the field. It is counter interest for me not to support that business as best I can because if it goes away, the airport's utility suffers mightily. And that starts the downhill spiral.

The evolving avgas crisis may push the mogas market to develop more. But the fact that it hasn't leads me to believe it's only a minor factor. If owners really wanted mogas, they'd force airports to provide it. Some are. But it doesn't seem to be a huge groundswell.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 6, 2010 9:11 AM    Report this comment

Any new fuel formulation must also be compatable with airplanes that have fuel bladders such as the Bonanza. I'm confident that technology can provide a solution for 100 octane fuel given the organized efforts of industry groups. As has been pointed out before, the percentage of aircraft needing 100LL is lower, they represent the higher end of the performance market where the money is in General Aviation. They are the ones that provide the opportunities for investors/FBO's, etc. to build on and expand or maintain GA's presence. For sometime now, many FBO's at mid to larger airports supply 100LL as a courtesy or local business permit requirement. The cost of separate storage, fuel trucks etc. is not profitable when you can pump far more Jet-A for a larger profit. We do live the American Dream. SUPPLY & DEMAND are the operative phrase.

Posted by: Tom Indseth | July 6, 2010 10:48 AM    Report this comment

"If owners really wanted mogas, they'd force airports to provide it." This really wasn't all that critical though in the past. Mogasers could find E0 at gas stations, and self-fuel. E0 now is rarer, but appears to be making a comeback as some refiners are discovering the niche market for boaters, ATVs, snowmobiles, etc. Another 6 stations have been added to PURE-GAS.org since yesterday evening, totaling now 1111. Most Mogasers I know are very supportive of their local FBOs and would be happy to buy E0 from them if they would supply it. But sometimes the fueler is the problem, even going so far as to threaten an FBO should they want add a separate Mogas pump. That helps no one. The FBO at Page Field in Ft. Meyers just added a Mogas pump when their fuel supplier refused to do it for them. Is it a huge groundswell? Not yet. But if the 100 octane replacement increases in price significantly, there will be more interest. Watch also major operators of LSA airplanes. Sebring airport added Mogas last December instead of watching Lockwood haul in Mogas from local gas stations. Flight schools are moving rapidly to LSAs for cost reasons, and these need Mogas. It is hard to argue against $3/g fuel among aircraft owners who can just barely afford the annual, insurance and hangar, and that is a large percentage of all of G.A.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 6, 2010 11:18 AM    Report this comment

I would like to see us through out the ASTM guide for aviation fuels and develop a fuel that works and then write the specification (ASTM) around the new fuel.

If not, perhaps the government will let me write the value of my airplane off my taxes as a loss, since I won't be able to fly it and no one will buy it without fuel to fly it!

Posted by: Richard Mutzman | July 6, 2010 11:49 AM    Report this comment

t is hard to argue against $3/g fuel among aircraft owners who can just barely afford the annual, insurance and hangar, and that is a large percentage of all of G.A.<<

That's true enough. Just off the phone with Todd Pedersen on the state of mogas STCs.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 6, 2010 11:56 AM    Report this comment

It is hard to argue against $3/g fuel among aircraft owners who can just barely afford the annual, insurance and hangar, and that is a large percentage of all of G.A.<<

That's true enough. Just off the phone with Todd Pedersen on the state of mogas STCs.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 6, 2010 11:57 AM    Report this comment

Recently I read about Brazil's crop duster fleet was configured to use ethanol fule because of it's low cost and availability.

Why can't we produce retrofit kits for existing engines that are ethanol-tolerant?

Posted by: Bill Vrastil | July 6, 2010 1:21 PM    Report this comment

Pure-gas.org is a nice idea. Of course it does nothing for those of us living in CA, the state with the largest number of GA aircraft, where ethanol blending is required. I like the dual fuel concept being proposed by Kent, but unless/until you can overcome the misguided ethanol blending requirements mandated by state governments I think your fighting a no win battle.

If non-blended unleaded premium mogas were available I think the business case could be made for a 2 pump solution at many airports. Not an official poll, but my hangar is directly adjacent to the BP self serve pump at KSDM which is some of the cheapest 100LL in SoCal. I see a lot of transient traffic that comes in just to fuel up. The great majority of those aircraft fit in the category of the 70% who could burn mogas if it were available. I'm pretty sure the FBO would install a mogas pump to keep that business coming in if he could. If not, somebody else would, and he'd be forced to do so to regain that lost business.

Paul, I used to fly a C-85 powered Cessna 140. It had an autofuel STC and I put mogas in it most of the time. I'm with you, it wasnt worth the hassle of climbing up a ladder with 5 gallon cans to save a few bucks. But when you figure in the time and effort involved in pulling spark plugs to clean out lead deposits on a regular basis, mogas starts to look pretty good.

Posted by: Mike Wills | July 6, 2010 2:25 PM    Report this comment

Mike- California does NOT have a mandatory E10 law. If it did, you would have an exception for your marine industry, aviation and public safety usage just like the other states with mandatory E10 laws, all five of them. There was a CARB oxygenate rule for many counties in Southern CA, the limit was E5.7 but last year your legislature passed a law allowing the terminals to blend E10 and all of them are going that way because the majors must meet the quotas in the federal RFS mandate in EISA 2007 and they get a tax credit for blending ethanol that helps them pay for their infrastructure upgrades. You can contact your state legislator and tell them how ethanol is affecting you and ask them to prohibit the blending of ethanol in premium unleaded. States have passed laws mandating E10, they can pass laws prohibiting ethanol in premium unleaded. EISA 2007 is NOT a mandatory E10 law. It was supposed to be an E85 corporate welfare act but it has run amok with unintended consequences. If you care to understand what happened, www.e0pc.com

Posted by: Dean Billing | July 6, 2010 2:43 PM    Report this comment

Why can't we run ethanol-blended fuel in current aviation engines? Brazil does; they have a Lycoming engine on the Ipanema that runs on pure ethanol.

Posted by: Bill Vrastil | July 6, 2010 3:08 PM    Report this comment

Dean, thanks I stand corrected. When I was flying the C-140 I noticed it was becoming harder and harder to find non-ethanol blended fuel. Eventually got to the point where I could not find any fuel that didnt contain ethanol.

It is my understanding that there is no longer any pump gas in CA available that does not contain ethanol. But that may be due to the requirement for oxygenates and the problems with MTBE, rather than a requirement for ethanol. In any case, there doesnt seem to be any ethanol free gas available to me which is why I built my RV-4 using ethanol compatible materials. I note that pure-gas.org doesnt list any locations within CA or AZ.

Posted by: Mike Wills | July 6, 2010 3:12 PM    Report this comment

Airplanes are built with many components incompatible with ethanol. Depending on the airplane changes required may be minor or significant, meaning expensive or very expensive. If you build your own and its certified Experimental, you can build with ethanol compatible materials.

Also, do a little web surfing on "phase separation". The potential severity of this issue to me is not at all clear. Could be anything from a non-issue to catastrophic depending on who's opinion you read.

For my part, I mostly use mogas containing ethanol in my RV-4. But I built using ethanol compatible materials, fly strictly day-VFR, and always leave the airplane with full tanks. I'd prefer to fly with ethanol free gas bought from my FBO if possible, but its not. My engine doesnt like the lead in 100LL.

Posted by: Mike Wills | July 6, 2010 3:25 PM    Report this comment

I still would like to see some proof the octane has to be that high. We went from 110 octane leaded fuel to 98 octane unleaded fuel with no issues and no performance loss, and we don't even run the highest octane stuff they make. This is with a 12:1 compression engine with cylinder pressures over 100 bar. I was surprised myself, but it works. I know that it was a major technical advancement for Sunoco because they found a mixture of additives that increased the knock resistance without using lead. I remember reading something about it when it came out but I don't know what the additives are. (We have to run it no matter what so frankly I don't care for our application.) Keep in mind that there had not been an unleaded fuel that would work for us until Sunoco developed this fuel.

The simple fact remains that people with similar engine types (large bore pushrod engines with a heavy duty cycle) have faced the same issues and overcome it successfully already. The technology is out there.

>At the Burlington, WI airport, (BUU) the self-serve pumps have the normal octane label we are used to seeing on autogas pumps- you know, the ones that say the octane is (R+M)/2 (the average of Road and Motor ratings). The number, as I recall (I was there 6 months ago) is 116. Not 104, not whatever Sunoco 260 is, but 116. That's the target for a 100LL replacement, using autogas, not anything lower.

Posted by: Matthew Carson | July 6, 2010 3:43 PM    Report this comment

While I understand the affinity ethanol has for water, we've had ethanol-blended fuels for years in cars and water buildup doesn't appear to be a problem. At least we can drain our aircraft tanks relatively easily compared to automobile fuel tanks.

I'm not familiar with phase separation but will try to get educated. Pure ethanol seems to be a viable fuel in Brazil, so why can't our current planes tolerate a fuel blend of 10% in the fuel tanks, lines, and engines? What components in the entire fuel system would need to be replaced in order to be ethanol-tolerant?

Posted by: Bill Vrastil | July 6, 2010 3:43 PM    Report this comment

>>I still would like to see some proof the octane has to be that high.<<

That's because (1) we're using old technology engines with fixed timing (2) Weight-saving measures on aircraft engines - with hollow crankshafts and lightweight cylinders they just can't handle any detonation unlike my old 350 chevy that could knock all day and keep on ticking (3) Air-cooled engines are a different animal from liquid cooled race engines (4) Aircraft engines make rated power at low RPM and (5) Certification standards require a "worst case" test to be performed. The 100 octane requirement basically satisfies the "worst case" scenario for a few high-performance engines in the fleet. Most likely your 8.5-1 IO-540 would run fine even on 94UL except for max power on a hot day - then you quite likely might blow a cylinder off. The one thing I understand has been tested thoroughly is that some of the higher compression engines in the fleet will not meet certification standards without engine mods or 100 octane fuel.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 6, 2010 4:52 PM    Report this comment

I suppose I could round up my collection of burned pistons due to detonation. I snapped another one recently. The higher HP engines need the octane. It's well documented.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 6, 2010 4:57 PM    Report this comment

I suppose I could round up my collection of burned pistons due to detonation. I snapped another one recently. The higher HP engines need the octane. It's well documented.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 6, 2010 4:58 PM    Report this comment

I think you're misunderstanding what I'm saying. You don't need the octane for it's own sake, you need the octane to reduce knock. If you can find another additive that eliminates knock without raising the octane than you don't need the octane. This is what has happened with the Sunoco fuel - we don't have knock with it. All of the issues you bring up have to do with handling knock when it occurs, not with eliminating it. You say the engines wouldn't meet the certification standards without 100 octane fuel - our engines wouldn't run on less than 110 either until this new fuel came out. All I'm asking is wouldn't it be worth a try instead of dismissing it out of hand? We are liquid cooled but most of the other issues you bring up we also have with our engines - fixed timing, extremely lightweight components, worst case duty cycle, etc.

Posted by: Matthew Carson | July 6, 2010 5:06 PM    Report this comment

I'm not trying to start an argument. It just frustrates me the air that seems to surround this discussion of "woe is us, there is no solution, our engines are way too specialized, no one understands." There are other industries and companies that have tackled this exact same problem and solved it. It just seems crazy to not even be willing to talk to them to see how they did it. It is almost as if the aviation community is too arrogant to believe that anyone else could have come up with a solution. Will unleaded racing fuel work in aviation engines? I don't know for sure. No one will know for sure unless they try it. I thought we would have issues adapting our engines to it due to the lower octane. We didn't. It was a nearly seamless switch. All I can offer is that experience.

Posted by: Matthew Carson | July 6, 2010 5:39 PM    Report this comment

Mike- "It is my understanding that there is no longer any pump gas in CA available that does not contain ethanol." Affirmative, the January PADD-5 report indicated that there was only one terminal with E0 in stock. Ethanol did become the oxygenate of choice after the MTBE debacle, but was limited to 5.7% which took care of the problem, in fact it was generally in the 3% range to meet the EPA standards, however that was never required in all of CA. AZ still has E0 in some places. I know pilots down there that are using it. I guess nobody has reported it to pure-gas.org which is a fairly new site.

Posted by: Dean Billing | July 6, 2010 5:39 PM    Report this comment

Bill, with cars the water absorption is much less of an issue because the fuel system is completely sealed. Aircraft tanks vented to the outside air also allow water vapor through the vents. Keeping the tanks filled minimizes this to some degree.

Ethanol will attack many components including gaskets, o-rings, hoses, bladders, etc... Some say its only a matter of time before these sorts of problems start appearing in cars.

There is also the possibility of corrosion in aluminum fuel tanks and fuel lines. Though I've seen some cases where there's been zero evidence of corrosion after many years of use, so I'm not sure how much of a risk there is there.

I guess for me this is the real question. I read lots of doom and gloom about using any ethanol blended fuel. But if you use ethanol compatible materials in the fuel system, how real are some of these other issues (phase separation, aluminum corrosion, etc...)? Seems to be a lot of contradictory info.

Posted by: Mike Wills | July 6, 2010 5:44 PM    Report this comment

Bill V.- "While I understand the affinity ethanol has for water, we've had ethanol-blended fuels for years in cars and water buildup doesn't appear to be a problem." Almost no problem in modern cars because they have sealed fuel systems, airplanes, boats, old cars and most portable tools don't. Phase separation is prevalent at low blending ratios. The ethanol absorbs water up to a point, then almost all of the ethanol and water separate and sink to the bottom of your tank as a corrosive blob. It is irreversible. This is how the ethanol test kits work. And what you may end up with is not gasoline as you know it, it will be suboctane blending product. If you have E10 in your tank, you will never drain water from your sump until phase separation occurs. If you see "water" it is too late, phase separation has occurred and you have a serious mess. Definitive paper on phase separation: http://www.epa.gov/oms/regs/fuels/rfg/waterphs.pdf

Posted by: Dean Billing | July 6, 2010 5:49 PM    Report this comment

Mike Wills: "which is why I built my RV-4 using ethanol compatible materials. " What engine do you have that is certified for ethanol-blended fuels?

Bill Vrastil: "Recently I read about Brazil's crop duster fleet was configured to use ethanol fule because of it's low cost and availability. Why can't we produce retrofit kits for existing engines that are ethanol-tolerant?" Neiva's Ipanema (www.aeroneiva.com.br) has a modified Lycoming IO-540-K1J5 that operates on 100% ethanol. Many studies show this is possible, but typically one needs a much higher fuel flow to produce the same power as a gasoline powered engine. 40% is the usual figure, which means your range drops by an equal amount. When I spoke with people involved in this project, they said that in order to avoid the problems mentioned by Dean above, the entire fuel system, including fuel tanks, must be drained each night to avoid water absorption.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 6, 2010 7:10 PM    Report this comment

cont'd

One Brazilian company, Aeroalcool, obtained E100 STCs for a number of aircraft engines, but could not make money on them as it seems Brazilian pilots simply ignore the rules and modify the engines on their own, without an STC. There have been STCs in the US for some years, especially from Baylor I believe, but the loss of power and/or range makes this a non-starter, let alone the inconvenience of having to purge you entire fuel system after you fly.

Lastly - even if your airplane and engine can tolerate E10, what will you do when the EPA allows E15, then E20, etc.?

If you can use Mogas, we suggest you contact your local state representatives and ask them to pass laws prohibiting the blending of ethanol in premium fuel. If they can pass laws allowing ethanol getting into our fuel, they can pass laws to get it out. Find the ones that are boaters, snowmobilers, ATV owners, or pilots - they will likely be more sympathetic.

BTW - PURE-GAS.org now lists 1118 stations with E0, up from 1111 eleven hours ago. That's ten times the number of airports carrying Mogas.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 6, 2010 7:12 PM    Report this comment

Bill V - "Why can't we produce retrofit kits for existing engines that are ethanol-tolerant?" Because someone would have to do an STC. EAA and Petersen which did the mogas STCs say no way. Here is EAA's explanation: http://www.eaa.org/autofuel/faqs/ethanol_blends.pdf Read Section 11.

Posted by: Dean Billing | July 6, 2010 7:36 PM    Report this comment

Much as I am no fan of ethanol, I am skeptical of the blanket statement that E10 can't be made to work in low compression engines. Or I'd like to see better data. I read the EAA report, but how does that reconcile with the Baylor data? And with the experience of people like Mike who are actually using E10.

As for no one pursuing the STCs or at least re-examining the Baylor work, that seems more likely to me than successfully engaging EPA, Congress, oil companies or statehouses to stem the ethanol tide in any way the promises reliable long-term supply.

Or, put together for-profit co-ops with enough buying power to purchase E0 at the terminal, under the ethanol radar, so to speak. Most of these little engines can get by without the octane ethanol octane boost.

We're in the midst of giant sea change on this subject and aviation represents such a tiny slice of the market, it will survive by being flexible and practical, not doctrinaire on what works and what doesn't.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 7, 2010 5:20 AM    Report this comment

Hello everyone from a German GA member - facing exactly the same problems as every US pilot - probably even earlier... FYI, the current MOGAS prices in Germany (based on a rate of 1,25 Dollars per Euro) are between 7 and 8 USD/Gal. The current AVGAS prices are between 12 and 13 USD/Gal. And we can´t expect it to get better... As a minority, we´ll have to stay present in the minds of the fuel producers (which will be VERY difficult - so keep on flying - and spread the enthusiasm about it to keep the number of pilots as high as possible...;-) and we´ll probably have to support each other in getting STC´s done (field testing etc.). I personnally do NOT at all expect any Gov´t authorities to support this process - it can probably only be done with much more responsibility on our side - cautious testing, more maintenance work carried out by the pilot/owner (being properly trained!!!), one electronic ignition circuit in combination with a better engine monitor (these are available right now) etc. Car engines in my opinion are NOT higher quality, they are designed for much less lifetime and much less loads - but it´s the majority of engines built - so the big fuel producers will not regard GA as a target group. "Get the most out of life or at least die trying"

Best regards,

Joachim Beh

Posted by: Joachim Beh | July 7, 2010 5:25 AM    Report this comment

Kent...can you contact me via e-mail? Thanks.

http://www.avweb.com/editorialstaff/

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 7, 2010 5:53 AM    Report this comment

Paul - "E10 can't be made to work in low compression engines" I'm not sure anyone says this is not possible; I understood the question related to 100% ethanol use, which was the focus at Baylor and with the Ipanema crop duster in Brazil. Surely any new auto engine conversion (Subaru, Mazda, Honda) will run fine on E10 since these engines were designed with it in mind. One must of course use compatible materials in the fuel tanks, lines, etc. With however the EPA poised to approve E15, the next step in their ultimate goal to blanket the US with E85, designing a plane to operate on E10 will become irrelevant, which is why we'd prefer to see a legal prohibition of ethanol in just one fuel, ideally premium.

My experience in NC is that one can form bipartisan support in a legislature by finding the boaters and pilots among politicians, and there are many of them. There is dwindling political will to support ethanol production in our state, so the primary resistance is from whomever retains the blender credit, which in our case are the fuel terminals. This credit may expire at the end of 2010, which ought to make legislation in favor of E0 premium exclusion easier. Like it or not, just about everything is political, one needs to be involved in such things or accept what our representatives do to us.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 6:23 AM    Report this comment

Paul - "purchase E0 at the terminal, under the ethanol radar" Unfortunately it is not that easy. Much of what comes out of a gasoline pipe at a terminal these days is BOB, the sub-octane blendstock to which ethanol is added, bumping up the octane to what we see at the pump. BOB might have sufficient octane rating to run our engine, but it is not a legal fuel, and I doubt that a terminal would sell it to anyone as they would be liable. Fortunately, some refiners have discovered the market for E0 Premium and are selling it at gas stations and marinas. That's what one sees at PURE-GAS.org No refiner or gas station is legally required to sell ethanol in all of its fuels. EISA 2007 dictates how much ethanol must be blended, but not in which fuels. Any gas station can choose to add it, or not add it, to a given fuel.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 6:27 AM    Report this comment

Joachim, at my German home base (Mengen, EDTM) and just about every other GA field in your country I find Mogas, i.e. SuperPlus Bleifrei. I suspect these are present due to the widespread use of Rotax-powered ULs (LSAs here)? What does surprise me though is how so many airfields can afford multiple fuel pumps and tanks, given that your weather essentially closes airports to sport aviation 6 months of the year. A major argument in the U.S. against multiple fuels is the high cost for a 2nd tank, yet at EDTM there are four fuels available (100LL, Mogas, Diesel and Jet-A). How were all these tanks financed? BTW - your fuel prices would be the same as our if you did not have the high taxes on them - fuel is internationally priced and all comes from the same wells and refineries, according to what I have been told.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 6:37 AM    Report this comment

We just sold our 79 Grumman Tiger. Before we get any other plane we are waiting to see what happens. $6.00 per gallon is an insane price to pay. We would rather travel by train then. We do want to upgrade to a used Bonanza. We think that lead should not be taken out. There is NO PROOF that it causes any harm, according to data, but we are being forced to do it. We can only hope there will be a viable alternative to 100LL that proves worthy at a REASONABLE price. Even $5/gal is too much.

We cried when they took our shiny 79 Tiger away to it's new home, but at least we feel safer financially. Crossing our fingers for a good solution, since that's all we have power to do now... Ruth and Brian

Posted by: Ruth Preston | July 7, 2010 7:50 AM    Report this comment

Ruth: "Crossing our fingers for a good solution, since that's all we have power to do now..."

The Tiger is a great plane. We do however have the power to affect the outcome of this debate. Pilots need to get engaged with their Alphabet groups, FBOs, Airport Commissions, State and Federal Legislators and local fuel suppliers. We'd all just rather go fly, of course, but just hoping that someone else will solve this problem for us no longer works, I am afraid.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 8:00 AM    Report this comment

Kent, my RV-4 doesnt have a certified engine. Registered as an E-AB and powered by a Mazda auto conversion. My engine is electronic fuel injected. The engine (including injectors) was manufactured in the late 80's and predates use of ethanol blended fuels. But as far as I can tell, there is nothing in the injectors susceptible to attack by ethanol. The hoses used to plumb the fuel system are ethanol compatible. The balance of the fuel system is per the Vans Aircraft plans - wet wings for tanks and aluminum fuel lines.

I did some reading before committing to running mogas blended with ethanol. The issue of compatibility with various seal materials is well established and I dealt with that. The possible issues related to phase separation and aluminum corrosion are less clear.

Researching phase separation I found various technical papers that describe the issue and its potential for causing engine stoppage as well as corrosion in aluminum fuel tanks. But I have never found any documented cases of this actually happening in a real airplane.

On the other hand I have found plenty of documented cases of successfully flying E-AB aircraft using ethanol blended fuel for years and thousands of hours with no adverse effects.

Since 100LL doesnt work that well for me, I've made a choice to run mogas. This is the better of two choices, but would prefer to burn an ethanol free, affordable, 91 octane or better fuel. If it was available.

Posted by: Mike Wills | July 7, 2010 10:43 AM    Report this comment

MIke, many thanks. I was guessing Mazda or Subaru conversion. Sounds like you have covered all the bases. Watch out though for the EPA's push to increase blends to E15, as there is even less information out there on its effects on engines, fuels, lubricants, gaskets, tank sealants, etc. Keep watching PURE-GAS.org for stations carrying E0; its author just reported to me that he averages 12-15 new stations per day. But there is no guarantee the stations listed will not lose their supplier. When I find a station selling E0, I make it a point to thank its manager/owner for doing this.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 10:51 AM    Report this comment

Kent/Dean, I think you underestimate how difficult getting the ethanol back out of mogas, at least in the state of CA will be. As you said, this is all about politics, and in CA, being perceived as pro "green" is one of those base requirements for a successful politician.

Now if there were evidence that ethanol is actually harmful to the environment (MTBE redux), then there would be a chance. Alternatively, a mandate at the fed level that makes premium ethanol free.

Posted by: Mike Wills | July 7, 2010 10:51 AM    Report this comment

Mike, we do not underestimate this for CA. It may not happen there, but we'll sure try to get it out of Premium in other parts of the country. In one sense however E0 for airplane is already the "green" alternative to leaded fuel. That's why our new archive of information on mogas is called FLYUNLEADED.com

There are plenty of reports out there already how ethanol production is a net negative for the economy and for the environment. Even some Sierra Clubs have come out against it. The Heartland Institute is one excellent resource for balanced data about the so-called renewable/sustainable energy sources that are typically anything but. www.heartland.org

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 10:57 AM    Report this comment

Kent, my RV could just as easily be Lyc powered as an auto conversion, and could still use mogas with ethanol. Assuming that the fuel system components were upgraded for compatibility. And I think this is the basic question that Bill Vrastil was asking - why cant existing engines and fuel systems be upgraded to burn E10 blended fuel?

I think the answer is that it can be done, but there are cost and certification issues as well as questions about the real world effects of phase separation, aluminum compatibility, etc...

To echo Paul, I too am skeptical of the blanket statement that E10 (or E15) cant be safely used in many applications. I'd like to see more research put into this to definitively determine what the real world risk potential is.

Posted by: Mike Wills | July 7, 2010 11:16 AM    Report this comment

Mike. That would take your LYC engine to EXP of course. Not all that many people willing to do this I suspect, even with an E-AB airframe. Has anyone stated that E10-E100 fuels categorically can not be used? There have been plenty who have done this going back to the 1930s. The issue, as you mention, is the cost, power loss, range loss, water absorption, material/lubricant compatibility, etc. E0 Premium is available in many parts of the country; we suspect it is more likely to carve out an exception for E0 premium than to jump through all the hoops to make E10/E15/E85 work in the 70%-80% of all piston aircraft that can run legally and safely now on E0. But heck, go for it! We need more people like you doing something and not just talking/teeth gnashing.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 11:24 AM    Report this comment

I just re-read the two reference documents that Dean cited from above - the EPA and EAA documents regarding ethanol blended fuels. I wont go into detail, but my take after rereading both is that there is still no valid case made for phase separation and related problems in real world applications.

Posted by: Mike Wills | July 7, 2010 11:38 AM    Report this comment

Mike, see if you can get a copy of Cessna SNL 10-5 from May, 2010, cited in this article: "Cessna issues strong warning against using ethanol in fuel", based on their recent tests.

http://www.generalaviationnews.com/?p=26043#more-26043

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 11:44 AM    Report this comment

I think it's time to scream for a two-fuel solution. If FBO's refuse to put in a MOGAS tank, screw it, let's set up pilot owned non-profit fuel clubs to do it. 10 pilots putting up $1000 should put in a pretty nice dual barrier fuel tank. I think there would be enough of a margin to sell ethanol-free mogas at $1 less per gallon than 100LL as well as giving a flowage fee to the airport and maintain the pumps - and perhaps investors would get a small fuel discount whereas transients would pay a little more into the kitty. I know this wouldn't fly at big Class C airports, but it'd give the cub drivers and light sport guys an option at smaller fields. The loss of ethanol-free mogas at the local gas station and the growth of the Rotax powered light-sports might just be the impetus to get a program like this going. And it'd perhaps get the EPA off our backs for a few years to develop a high-octane option (supposedly the EPA has said that they would) I kind of sit on both sides of this fence - I fly some IO-540 powered airplanes that need 100 octane as well as the lower powered aircraft. It's just as wrong to tell the low compression crowd that we're gonna pay an extra dollar a gallon for 100 octane as it is for the high compression crowd to be SOL.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 7, 2010 1:18 PM    Report this comment

Mike, see if you can get a copy of Cessna SNL 10-5 from May, 2010, cited in this article: "Cessna issues strong warning against using ethanol in fuel", based on their recent tests.

http://www.generalaviationnews.com/?p=26043#more-26043

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 1:22 PM    Report this comment

Josh, our talk at Oshkosh (7/27, 11:30, Dake I) will provide a blueprint for people like you to get Mogas onto an airfield at the lowest possible cost. Agreed - we also need a long-term 100 octane solution as many sport aviators also fly high-powered A/C. This is not an either-or situation, G.A. needs both to survive.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 1:26 PM    Report this comment

Kent,

For your E0 efforts, I would not discount making a national effort through the EAA to pressure the FAA to obtain an exemption for your 'Premium E0' proposal. If you've been around long enough, you might recall the FAA+alphabet groups precedent on a similar issue.

The Clean Air Act (1990?) originally banned, by the end of 1992, the manufacture of engines that require lead in their fuel, and to ban by end 1995 all production of fuel with TEL. There was no exemption for aviation at the time.

The temporary avgas exemption was achieved by the FAA, backed by the AOPA et al. educating the EPA.

An interesting comment by an EPA official at the time suggested that "aviation would have to build a lot of engines in 1992" (paraphrased).

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 7, 2010 1:48 PM    Report this comment

Edd, thank you for the good advice. The EAA invited our talk on the topic last year, and accepted our proposal again this year. We are hopeful that they will assist all those who would like to see a prohibition of ethanol in Premium gasoline. Unlike other aviation fuels, in this case we have other groups on our side, namely boaters, ATV owners, etc. There is a greater economic case for fuelers to make a profit from E0 Premium, and they ought to be able to supply remote airfields just as they now supply marinas across the country. I am president of a large EAA chapter (1114, Apex, NC) and am in frequent contact with headquarters.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 1:56 PM    Report this comment

Kent, a small piece of further advice. Bring the boaters along, but not the ATVs or dirt motorcyclists ;-)

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 7, 2010 2:11 PM    Report this comment

Uh-oh, I won't go there.....the more, the merrier. PURE-GAS.org btw was started by a fellow with an old BMW bike that needs E0.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 2:27 PM    Report this comment

Damn: Why do we point the comment at our own ear? Cost of Airport fueling equipment and its regulation is why fuel costs are marketed by refiners. Put them out of running our airports and let them starve at the airline hubs. Aviation grade, leaded or unleaded is political fodder and will not add to safety. Why not tell the truth. Buyers should be free to buy what they need. Sticky fingers and greasy palms only fly in and out of Meigs, Chicago style.

Posted by: Gus Bell | July 7, 2010 3:14 PM    Report this comment

This is the point I have been trying to make about using racing fuel - using something that other people also need is a good thing.

Kent if you're ever over in Concord/Huntersville let me know I'd be glad to give you a tour of our shop (Joe Gibbs Racing). Just not sure how to get you my contact info without publishing it on a public forum :)

> Unlike other aviation fuels, in this case we have other groups on our side, namely boaters, ATV owners, etc. There is a greater economic case for fuelers to make a profit from E0 Premium, and they ought to be able to supply remote airfields just as they now supply marinas across the country.

Posted by: Matthew Carson | July 7, 2010 3:14 PM    Report this comment

Edd- "I would not discount making a national effort through the EAA to pressure the FAA to obtain an exemption for your 'Premium E0' proposal." EAA has "pressured" EPA which is the agency to pressure about ethanol blending. They have COMPLETE control over the program. EAA made a comment on the E15 waiver, "EAA proposes that the EPA consider a nationwide policy of permitting higher concentrations of ethanol in lower octane motor gasoline while leaving a single high-octane grade (most expensive and sold in the lowest quantities) ethanol free on a nationwide basis." EAA is quietly supporting a ban on ethanol blending in premium unleaded, but they have not taken an editorial stand through their publications so no EAA members know about it. I have urged them to make a public statement repeatedly. You can find their entire waiver comment at www.flyunleaded.com, click on "List of Pertinent E15 Waiver Comments", page down to the 5th page and you will find a link to the EAA comment. Notice that Todd Petersen also commented similarly.

Posted by: Dean Billing | July 7, 2010 3:46 PM    Report this comment

Kent:Uh-oh, I won't go there.....the more, the merrier. PURE-GAS.org btw was started by a fellow with an old BMW bike that needs E0. You bet. All 4 of my old BMW bikes are happier with E0, and pretty happy with 100LL, especially because of its shelf life during the winter months. That shelf life issue would be really important for airplanes running E0 as well- I hope the E0 is better than E10. Even with Stabil, I had problems with gummy carbs every year until I just put in 100LL for the winter. Those winter months can cause some fairly long fuel storage periods, even though we get in an occasional flight.

Posted by: Tom Lubben | July 7, 2010 3:53 PM    Report this comment

The reason for this discussion stinks of junk science compliments of the true believers in the global warming. Both arguments are based on beliefs not data, and it dismays me to see Paul say 'get over it, the issue is settled, lets salvage what we can.' IMHO that means we should let someone else's religious belief drive the show. That's group think, and I dislike it a lot.

I decided to put in my two cents worth not because I need the octane. I don't. Mogas works for me, and I think the ethanol issue boils down to certification not function, and airworthiness is not all it's cracked up to be. I thought I'd share this, hot off the minds of people who worry about policy and direction because it drives where we will end up ten years from now: http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2010/July%202010/0710edit.aspx

Posted by: Thomas Connor | July 7, 2010 4:03 PM    Report this comment

Kent, I just read Cessna SNL 10-5. I dont see where a warning against the use of ethanol based fuels on the basis of testing using AGE-85 has any relevance? E10, E15, E20 are petroleum based fuels with ethanol added. AGE-85, the fuel used in the Cessna testing is 85% ethanol. How is this applicable?

What strikes me about this service bulletin is the careful wording that says absolutely nothing about mogas oxygenated with ethanol. I assume that the testing and bulletin were specifically targeted at AGE-85 to provide Cessna with legal footing should it become necessary sometime down the road in response to the Texas Skyways STC. E10, in my opinion, was excluded in this testing since there is no current legal means of using E10 in a Cessna.

I remain unconvinced that there is any real world issue with using E10, provided ethanol compatible materials are used in fuel system fabrication.

Posted by: Mike Wills | July 7, 2010 4:22 PM    Report this comment

Well, fuel system fabrication, including carburetors, is a big issue. I know it was for my BMW motorcycles, and I now have ethanol-compatible floats and needles. Fortunately I don't have fuel bladders. The other big issue is going to be storage life, as a number of planes go up to several months without flying (or more, perish the thought), and that will- I can say from experience in my old BMWs- definitely cause troubles. But the biggest issue of all-and this blog has moved away from it- is that E10, or any of the EXX fuels, will not provide a 116 (or so) R+M/2 rating. Not even close. So all the E0, E10 and E85 debate leaves that segment- that uses the most Avgas-out in the cold.

Posted by: Tom Lubben | July 7, 2010 4:36 PM    Report this comment

Mike you are correct, the Cessna SNL mentions mostly AGE-85. We have had a discussion with Cesar Gonzales of Cessna who has done the work and he voice strong opposition to the use of any ethanol in fuels for Cessnas. That however was not in the SNL, but he did address the overall issue at the recent ASTM meeting in KC. In principle any airplane could likely be modified to run safely with E10, but for certificated airplanes and engines, this will require new STCs. Then, what does one do when the EPA raises the limit to E15, then E22, then E30? Each increase may require new STCs, new mods, etc. E0 is available now and I expect you would agree that this is preferable to E10 if one can get it?

Tom - you are correct, E0 Mogas does nothing for those who need higher octane. We have never claimed that it does. We need two fuels, not one for all.

I would pose this question to all however: what is more important for the overall health of G.A. Providing a replacement 100 octane fuel for those who burn the majority of fuel now, or provide an appropriate sub-100 octane, AFFORDABLE fuel for the majority of airplane owners? Airports make money from 100LL sales, but also from hangar rent, flight schools, flying clubs, fly-ins, airshows and other activities primarily for those who fly aircraft that do not need 100 octane. The obvious answer is that we need fuels for both of these camps.

Matthew - contact me via www.aerosouth.net

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 5:51 PM    Report this comment

Tom - I suspect that most of us, including Paul, agree with you in principle, but we're looking for the best means to keep flying, taking the path of least resistance. Trying to stop the anti-lead crowd and general public sentiment is not the path of least resistance; we must choose our battles wisely. If you can convince the FOE & EPA to back off on their demands, we'll all buy you a beer. I will buy you a case of it.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 5:51 PM    Report this comment

"..EAA has "pressured" EPA which is the agency to pressure about ethanol blending. They have COMPLETE control over the program..."

Dean, my point was that EPA agreed to the temporary exemption for TEL in avgas as a result of FAA involvement, backed by AOPA, EAA and others.

In my mind, government agencies respond better to other government agencies, rather than outside minority special interests.

OT: My '79 Honda CBX (bought new) prefers 100LL to mogas with Stabil.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 7, 2010 6:12 PM    Report this comment

Kent, if I knew for certain that my current operations with ethanol blended mogas would have no long term ill effects, I'd prefer to continue to burn the same fuel that millions of cars burn. That makes the most sense from an economics standpoint. Right now, as with so many things in my airplane, I'm experimenting with mogas because I dont think the data is there to tell me what the long term is, but it is my best available alternative.

Given the lack of data on the effects of E10, as a fallback, I would prefer to use E0 if possible. But E0 is not available where I live. Politically the likelyhood that ethanol will ever be removed now that its here, given its perception by the general public as a "greener" alternative to E0, in my opinion is non-existent. Unless you can prove that ethanol is the next MTBE. Then CA politicos will fall all over themselves getting ethanol out of gasoline. Maybe you just have to live in CA to understand it?

Posted by: Mike Wills | July 7, 2010 6:39 PM    Report this comment

Mike, I completely understand your predicament, and I am originally from SoCal. Here's hoping that success with E0 in other parts of the country will find their way to you. Please continue to report on your experiences with E10 though, and good flying a terrific airplane.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 7, 2010 6:47 PM    Report this comment

Paul, You should talk to John Frank at the Cessna Pilots Association. He is aware of a technical solution to the low-octane problem. It is a little controversial (good thing if you're interested in healthy debate) but it is technically feasable and has been proven in actual use.

Maybe you'll run across John at Oshkosh if you don't talk to him before that.

Posted by: David Bunin | July 7, 2010 7:12 PM    Report this comment

Edd- "... my point was that EPA agreed to the temporary exemption for TEL in avgas as a result of FAA involvement, backed by AOPA, EAA and others." Of course the alphabets jumped on FAA. Without the TEL exemption, ALL of GA would have shut down at once because all certified avgas had TEL in it. The mogas STCs came later. FAA doesn't have to do anything about ethanol if all of the gas goes E10 because GA will just try to fly on 100 LL, no matter the damage and the decline. This is no different than when FAA and the alphabets let refiners stop making 80/87 because they assumed every engine would work on 100 LL. My point was that the aviation alphabets need to make their case with EPA which can prohibit ethanol blending in all premium unleaded with a stroke of the pen and has publicly said that it is considering that for the E15 waiver ruling because of feedback from the marine industry that is much worse off than the aviation industry, plus EPA better wake up pretty soon to the threat ethanol blending poses to portable tools used in public safety. Besides, the federal RFS mandate was never about E10 or E15 or EXX, it is about E85!

Posted by: Dean Billing | July 7, 2010 7:51 PM    Report this comment

By the way folks the hands down logical and cost effective choice for aviation fuel is using lead as an octane booster and shelf life enhancer.

Posted by: Brad Vaught | July 7, 2010 8:34 PM    Report this comment

I do not really see a debate going on here. I see some really good ideas being thrown being bandied about. For any of this to gain traction, it has to be adopted by one of the alphabet groups who can then pressure the EPA, ASTM, FAA, what have you. My dog in this fight is my IO-520BA engine. It will not run on autogas. I will not accept derating. And talk of electronic engine controls means one thing...expensive. At least $30K just for the electronics. And electronics means derating the engine by altering the timing. I do not like Continental's position on this matter. They are basically writing off the high compression engines. So, what does a small turbine cost?

Posted by: David Heberling | July 7, 2010 10:58 PM    Report this comment

At least $30K just for the electronics.<<

I don't think it will be quite that high, David. But it might be half that. I wouldn't be surprised if it was less. But the larger point is that you represent a point of view Continental needs to hear. And that is for many owners, engines and de-rating aren't acceptable.

And that points to a need for 100-octane fuel. See today's news columns for more developments in this regard.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 8, 2010 4:02 AM    Report this comment

>>for many owners, engines and de-rating aren't acceptable<< It's good everyone is screaming about this now - I'm afraid unless there's a change of course this is gonna happen. The FAA actually did this to Cessna 150 owners in the form of an AD and I don't know of any airplane that needs it's rated horsepower on takeoff more than a 150. It's time to start a dual-fuel phase-in of unleaded and get the EPA off our backs until we've got a replacement for 100LL.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | July 8, 2010 8:17 AM    Report this comment

Perhaps this has been referenced, if not, a pretty good article on the future of avgas written by a petro engineer here: http://www.kitplanes.com/magazine/pdfs/0606-2935.pdf

I live in Montana, which is not a corn growing state, and our mogas is relatively free of alcohol. I have never found it with my EAA test dye kit but others claim they have. Yet others say a 'rogue load' of adulterated mogas is not possible because it's blended at the rack. I have flying farmer friends in corn states who can order alcohol-free fuel for delivery to the farm, so IIRC it's a state law regulating mogas alcohol, not the feds.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | July 8, 2010 1:47 PM    Report this comment

Tom - thanks for the article link, a bit dated, but a good overview. Can you please add any stations/airports/marinas in MT selling E0 to PURE-GAS.org ? Right now there are only seven listed in Montana. Thanks.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 8, 2010 2:53 PM    Report this comment

Tom- where do you live in MT? I understand Missoula is predominantly E10. I understand that the refinery(s) in Billings are still making E0, but that will slowly change as they convert their terminals to blend ethanol to meet EISA 2007 quotas.

Posted by: Dean Billing | July 8, 2010 3:13 PM    Report this comment

Dean. I live in Great Falls and get mogas at the flying J next to the airport. I don't know if they buy from Montana Refining Co. in Great Falls or truck it in from elsewhere. The last I checked MRC was getting feed that favored bitumin and jet, but that may have changed. I also want to retest their 91 octane to be sure I don't mislead anyone.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | July 8, 2010 5:16 PM    Report this comment

If EPA has absolute control of the Ethynol issue, then the obvious answer is to make every airfuel facility a demo project of the greener alternative, put more money into fuel and less into Petro Marketing payments for airport owners. Insurance for fuel farms exceeds investments into research of a greener alternate needed to correct contaminated research.

Posted by: Gus Bell | July 8, 2010 9:18 PM    Report this comment

Dean/Kent, please clarify. I believe your message is pretty clear and that you are advocating a dual fuel approach with E0 mogas as a lower performance option for those who can use it. This makes sense for a number of reasons other than political ones.

This is where your message gets confusing to me. On the one hand Kent is soliciting input on E0 sources to pure-gas.org. On the other hand Dean seems to be saying whatever the case is today, it will only get worse with further implementation of EISA 2007. At least that is what I understand from Dean's reply to Tom above.

To me the concept makes sense, not altogether clear on the approach though. My feeling is that a grass roots effort with individual pilots petitioning state reps will go nowhere. You'd end up with a small fraction of the pilot community (which in itself is a tiny special interest group) talking to a couple of reps. Not enough to register a blip on the radar.

You may have answered this previously, but where do the alphabets stand on this idea? Specifically AOPA and EAA. They actually have the clout to possibly make something happen. Without EAA/AOPA influence on state and federal legislators I see this having little chance of gaining any traction against the "green" movement that is so in vogue, particularly in CA.

Posted by: Mike Wills | July 9, 2010 11:00 AM    Report this comment

Mike, some states will be tougher than others, but there are many where ethanol and "green" policies are seen with great skepticism, both by politicians and voters. We're not advocating for a change to EISA 2007 mandates (though they are needed) as this will need Congressional action, hard to imagine at the present time. EISA 2007 however says nothing about where ethanol is to be blended. If states can mandate its overall use with exceptions for certain vehicles, they can also mandate restrictions to its use in Premium. Many Legislators are boaters, snowmobilers, ATVers, Classic car/bike owners and pilots and will understand this issue.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 11, 2010 6:08 PM    Report this comment

Mike (cont'd) - The alphabets have been mysteriously quiet on the important role that E0 Premium Mogas could play to (a) reduce lead pollution quickly and reduce pressure from EPA to find a 100LL replacement, and (b) make aviation significantly more affordable with only the small investment of a small 2,000g-4,000g self-serve Mogas tank/pump. One major alphabet now "gets it" however and we'll be announcing a collaboration with them on Wednesday, 7/28 in Oshkosh. We'll mention this in our forum on Tuesday, 7/27, 11:30, Dake I pavilion. Until then see FLYUNLEADED.COM for links to information.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | July 11, 2010 6:16 PM    Report this comment

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