Owner Groups Push For Accelerated Avgas Testing

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Worried about lack of progress in finding a replacement for 100LL avgas, the Malibu/Mirage Owners and Pilots Association and other owner groups have asked AOPA to step in and ask the FAA to approve accelerated fuel-testing procedures. In a report to the group's members, M/MOPA's Jon Sisk said AOPA President Craig Fuller has been asked directly to pressure the FAA to approve the STC process as one means of rapidly testing potential 100LL replacement fuels. The agency has done this before under Advisory Circular 20-24B (PDF), but it has stalled one recent request from General Aviation Modifications Inc. to allow its proposed G100UL to be tested in a limited fleet trial via STC.

Currently, the fuel is being tested in a turbonomalized Cirrus SR22 in experimental registry, but GAMI's George Braly told AVweb that the fuel needs much wider exposure, both to test its technical performance in real-world operation and to give it wider public exposure. Another 100-octane contender, Swift Fuel, is about to undergo wider fleet test at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Although the FAA has approved fuels for test purposes under STCs before, it has resisted GAMI's request, insisting instead that the company apply to ASTM International for a formal fuel approval, a process that takes about two years, after which wider testing could begin. Over the weekend, Braly said the FAA may be about to agree that the STC process can be used, but the approval schedule remains uncertain.

In his report to members, Sisk said that one reason no suitable fuel has emerged is that innovation has been stymied by a lockstep adherence to the constraints of ASTM's D910 fuel specification. "After looking for it within or near the D910 spec for 20 years, it seems obvious that the solution will be found elsewhere and that the an earnest effort outside the constraints of the D910 spec has not yet be conducted."

AOPA declined to say directly if Fuller will comply with the owner groups' request, but deferred the query to the industry's FAST future fuels committee, which held an informational briefing for the press last week. When asked if FAST would specifically pressure the FAA on the STC issue, AVweb got no direct response, other than the general assurance that FAST would support all broad-based effort to accelerate fuel testing and approval procedures with the FAA, including the STC approach. FAST committee member Doug McNair said flight testing -- under STC or otherwise -- is viewed as a minor part of the fuel-approval process. Braly told us that while he agrees with that view, he believes that all of the fuels contending to be the replacement for 100LL need a faster testing approval path than is offered by ASTM. There currently may be other 100-octane candidates that haven't surfaced publicly.

Braly believes the industry is moving so slowly on the fuels issues that aircraft sales are in danger of nose-diving just on that issue, much less the current recession. "We are being ruled by fear, uncertainty and doubt," Braly said. "The need for clarity on a new fuel is urgent. We need to make sure this market doesn't freeze up. It's in real jeopardy of doing that."

Braly told us he will make an initial application for ASTM approval for G100UL this week in Kansas City.

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