AVmail: December 9, 2013
Letter of the Week:
100UL Should Be Cheaper than 100LL
Regarding Shell's announcement that it has created an unleaded 100-octane aviation fuel: Once in production, and without knowing the ingredients, this should actually be lower in cost than 100LL for several reasons, some of which are:
- No more special handling of a special fuel like 100LL because, without lead, it can be handled just like mogas.
- It can be transported in pipelines, which 100LL cannot be.
- It can be safely used in all piston-powered aircraft, which 100LL cannot be. Many of the 80-octane engines are unsafe on 100LL and did just fine on mogas without ethanol. The new fuel can be marked to all piston-powered aircraft, which should help increase volume and might equal lower costs.
- The lead in 100LL has to be imported from the U.K. since EPA has made it impossible for domestic producers.
I'd hoped a 100UL fuel would cost less than 100LL because the need to segregate the fuel from other unleaded motor fuels goes away and the new unleaded fuel can be run through pipelines and not trucked in.
But considering the tiny fraction of the fuel market that avgas has (0.1 percent), I suppose the economics just aren't there.
Might be a pipe dream, but I would think and hope that with a non-dedicated leaded fuel production and distribution system, (i.e. common tankers, processes -- no need to address lead contamination), it should be possible for Shell to produce the fuel at a premium vs. high-octane automotive fuel, but cheaper than current 100LL -- while still maintaining their profits at levels equal to or better than 100LL. With decent pricing, overall flying and fuel consumption may increase and be good for their business overall.
The price of gas is already limiting my flying. Paying more is not an option; selling the airplane is.
They should price-support 100LL just like they do milk, grain, and other things. More flying will happen when the price of fuel goes down.
Video System as ELT?
So a video system is transmitting emergency signals in either the VHF or UHF range and continues to do so even when turned off? This reminds me of a time I landed and left my plane overnight at a small airport that was less than completely friendly to strangers. The next morning when I returned to my airplane, my disassembled ELT was on the seat with a note the read something like, "Your ELT was transmitting even though the switch was off. It continued to transmit even after we cut the wires to the battery." In both of these cases, despite the obvious diligence of the searchers, the ELT signal was coming from somewhere else.
The video camera ELT signal was most definitely a 121.5 signal, and 121.5 signals from things other than ELTs are very common. When I was in CAP, I found a 121.5 fax machine and have heard firsthand stories of pizza ovens, computers, microwaves, and video game transmitting on 121.5.
The 406 signal contains encoded data, so a stray signal on 406 will be filtered out as background noise. All 406 ELTs also transmit on 121.5 for close-in location.