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Volume 25, Number 24b
June 13, 2018
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GAMI's G100 Avgas Replacement Nears End Of Testing
Paul Bertorelli

As the FAA’s leaded avgas replacement effort grinds to a temporary halt, General Aviation Modifications Inc. says it’s close to completing testing on its own 100-octane unleaded fuel. GAMI sidestepped the FAA’s Piston Aviation Fuel Initiative in favor of a more streamlined STC approval process that’s now within a few steps of being completed.

GAMI’s George Braly told AVweb this week that the company’s G100 fuel has been getting more attention from both the FAA and general aviation interests even before last week’s announcement that PAFI testing of two candidate fuels from Swift and Shell has been halted because of specification shortfalls. The agency declined to offer details, but said it would be inviting companies with candidate fuels outside the PAFI process to participate. Braly said GAMI will continue to focus its efforts on the STC approvals.

G100 is an aviation alkylate base stock with an octane enhancement package consisting of a blend of aromatic hydrocarbons. It has been under almost continuous testing and evaluation since 2010. Braly said the company is continuing testing “out of a hip pocket” and may be done with the FAA-mandated work by the end of the year or early next year. Braly said GAMI still has some detonation testing and inflight trials using a Lycoming IO-540K-eqipped Lance and a 150-hour test in a Cirrus.

The company has been approached by refiners interested in producing G100 under license and although an STC is required to use it, Braly said GAMI hopes to offer this for free as a simple download. The STCs will eventually cover the entire fixed-wing piston fleet and could eventually be expanded to cover helicopters and warbirds.

G100 is slightly heavier than 100LL, but not enough to make significant performance differences, Braly said. It weighs 6.25 pounds per gallon compared to 6 pounds for 100LL. At the refinery gate, Braly estimates that G100 will cost 40 to 80 cents more than leaded avgas, but not less. Retail price at the pump will vary according to local flowage margins.

Report: FAA Should Let Drones Fly
Mary Grady

The FAA’s “overly conservative” approach to safety risk assessments creates a “significant barrier” to the development and implementation of drone technology, according to a report issued on Monday. Congress mandated the study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. “FAA needs to accelerate its move away from the ‘one size fits all’ philosophy for UAS operations,” said George Ligler, chair of the committee that conducted the study. “The FAA’s current methods for safety and risk management certainly ensure safety within the manned aircraft sector,” Ligler said, “but UASs present new and unique challenges and opportunities, which make it important for the agency to take a broader view on risk analysis.” Drone operations that could provide safety benefits have been prevented from entering the airspace because of the FAA’s application of risk-assessment techniques, the report found.

The FAA’s focus on passenger aircraft has contributed to the development of a “near-zero tolerance for risk,” the report found, and the same standards are applied to drones, which do not pose a direct threat to human life in the same way as manned aircraft. The focus of the FAA is often solely on what might go wrong, and the dialogue now needs to shift toward a more holistic assessment of risks, says the report. The National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to lawmakers to help inform public policy decisions related to science, technology and medicine. A prepublication copy of the report is posted online. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office also critiqued the FAA's management of drone safety.

Are We Gonna Get A 100LL Replacement Or Not?
Paul Bertorelli

I have my own little axe to grind here and so let the sparks fly. Last month, as part of routine newsgathering duties, I tried to compile a how-goes-it on the FAA’s Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, or PAFI. This yielded nothing but a waste of time and mounting frustration for me because everyone I spoke to said some version of, "I can’t talk about it.” Or all I can say is something off the record.

Now comes the FAA to announce that the PAFI process—at least the testing—has been suspended because the differences between the two candidate fuels from Swift and Shell and the current 100LL spec are too great. Pray tell what does this mean? And why did it take us four years to learn this? And what happens next? And the big one: Does this spook the market for people about to spend most of a million bucks for an airplane that requires 100LL? Or even a used Bonanza? Does anyone even care anymore? (You can tell us by answering today’s Question of the Week.)

The PAFI process has been impressively successful at one thing: keeping the general flying public utterly in the dark. It was not only designed to be this way, as I understand it, it‘s required to be because of archaic federal rules that kick in at the nexus between government oversight and private industry development efforts. I can see the point, since companies are sensitive about tipping their investment hands to competitors. On the other hand, the level of opaqueness surrounding PAFI is counterproductive, frustrating and something we as citizens shouldn’t accept as good government. Nice ideal, huh? Good luck changing it.

So four years into PAFI—more than two of testing—it looks like we have learned only that the two candidate fuels are too different from 100LL and if I’m reading between the lines correctly, that means neither is the drop-in replacement we had hoped for. Does that then mean that these will be tweaked before more testing? After I reported that the Shell fuel was an effective aircraft paint stripper, I thought that the tweaking had already occurred. And if it had not occurred, why was further testing being done on a fuel no right-thinking pilot would want near his airplane? Many such questions hover over the process with, thus far, no answers that would satisfy even the mildly curious.

With details lacking on the specs shortfall, I can only guess what the issues are. I don‘t think octane is one of them, however. Swift’s entry never lacked for that and at least one source familiar with the testing told me that neither did Shell’s. Swift may have had some problems with cold weather starting and there may be compatibility issues with fuel distribution equipment and the ever-worrisome O-rings and seals. There could be other problems no one foresaw or that simply couldn’t be addressed.

Waiting in the wings are other candidates. General Aviation Modifications Inc.’s G100 may be the most prominent, but Phillips has a project going in conjunction with Afton Chemical, the Europe-based Total and BP reportedly have formulations under consideration but of unknown currency. There may be others. Presumably, or so it said, the PAFI edifice will now examine these as Swift and Shell modify their formulations to fix the shortcomings we aren’t being told about.

Recall that the last official update on PAFI progress was at AirVenture, where the message was that things were going swimmingly. A year later, not so much and the completion schedule has now slipped a full year to December 2019, some 18 months distant.

It’s only logical to again ask why we’re doing this in the first place and you may have forgotten it’s because the EPA was considering a finding of endangerment against tetraethyl lead. That’s still underway at EPA, although an email I sent asking of its status went unanswered. Friends of the Earth, you may recall, has a pending suit that seeks to force the EPA’s hand on the endangerment finding and the group told me the suit is still active, but with no new filings or court action planned. 

There’s an underlying assumption here that the EPA will, sooner or later, act on the lead issue and after 40 years of trying, the aviation industry needs a ready unleaded solution. Given the current administration’s aggressive attitude toward deregulation, I’m not so sure it wouldn’t slow leak the endangerment finding for the foreseeable future. If that transpired, does that reduce the urgency for a replacement? The FAA and the engine industry seem to have decided on an unleaded future, but the timeline is rubbery.

The schedule may very well hinge on what producers of 100LL still in the game wish to do. There’s still money to be made in producing leaded avgas, although the volumes have been in decline. My best guess is that it’s a $200 to $300 million a year profit stream for the refiners blending avgas. For the effort of handling the lead—or getting rid of it and blending an unleaded product—that’s still a business worth being in.

Or so it would seem. On the other hand, nothing in the avgas business has ever been what it seems.





Daher's TBM Enters Surveillance And Reconnaissance Market
Jason Baker

Daher has developed a new configuration for its TBM 910 and TBM 930 single-engine turboprops to carry intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment, which the company introduced at the Eurosatory 2018 Security and Defense Show in Paris this week. Nicolas Chabbert, director of Daher's Airplane Business Unit, told AVweb the company’s main objective is to provide an alternative within the growing market of medium-altitude long-endurance surveillance options that is quick to deploy. The new configuration allows the mounting of sensors and high-definition cameras beneath the wings of the aircraft. According to Daher, an extensive test program was completed with a 110-pound high-definition camera, and the installation did not negatively affect aircraft handling or performance.

The TBM 910/TBM 930 ISR version also can fly surveillance missions with a multi-sensor optronic retractable turret, as well as a Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator, the company said. The aircraft can also intercept communications. The sensors and cameras are controlled from a quick-change console by an operator seated behind the pilot. Both the 910 and 930 are powered by an 850-HP PT6A-66D turboprop engine. The primary difference between the models is avionics—the 910 is equipped with Garmin’s G1000 NXi avionics system with physical keypad, and the 930 comes with Garmin’s G3000 with touchscreen control.

The manufacturer is counting on a growing demand for charter and commercial use of single-engine turboprops, especially in France, where labor strikes at times have crippled the scheduled air transport sector. In the ISR configuration, the TBM 910 and TBM 930 can also fulfill a wide range of defense, security, medical evacuation and transport missions. Daher notes the aircraft can be reconfigured rapidly for various duties. Both aircraft cruise at around 330 knots and have a useful range of slightly over 1700 NM.

Flight Design CTLSi Flight Review
Larry Anglisano

At around $180,000, the 2018 Flight Design CTLSi is about as modern as any LSA on the market, with a Rotax 912iS Sport engine, a three-display Dynon glass cockpit, a BRS whole-airplane parachute and a high-end leather interior. But if you're looking to save some money but don't want to sacrifice performance, a pre-owned late-model CTLSi is worth a look. For this video, Aviation Consumer Editor Larry Anglisano took a close look at the CTLSi models to see if they really can work as efficient traveling airplanes. Turns out they can.

FAA Rejects AOPA FBO Pricing Complaint
AVweb Staff

The FAA’s Southern Region Airports Division has rejected an AOPA complaint claiming that Signature Flight Support at Asheville, North Carolina, charges pilots for “unnecessary and unwanted services," and countered that the FBO is entitled to charge fees to earn a return on its investment. The association filed the Part 13 complaint last year against Signature FBOs at three airports: Asheville, Key West, Florida, and Waukegan, Illinois.

In its complaint, AOPA argued that Signature facilities at these airports—the only FBOs on the field—impose high fees for services that pilots often don’t request and don’t need. AOPA said because all three airports receive Airport Improvement Program funds from the FAA, the airports are obligated to provide ready access to the airport and to impose only fair and non-discriminatory fees. AOPA withdrew the complaint against Waukegan after the airport set up a free transient parking area and reduced the price of self-service avgas.

But in a June 7 letter rejecting AOPA’s Asheville complaint, the FAA said, “We found AOPA’s assertions to be unpersuasive.” The agency said a transient operator incurs fees “as a condition of engaging in … aeronautical use Signature’s facility,” and that this is a “common business practice.” Based on the information AOPA provided, the FAA said it couldn’t draw any conclusions about Signature’s rate structure and it added that “FBOs are not required to be transparent with their pricing.” Further, said the FAA, “Signature has assumed a certain level of risk by investing in its facilities at the airport … and is entitled to pursue the business model that provides a return on this investment.”

In a statement issued Tuesday, AOPA challenged the FAA’s reasoning. “How can there be a market rate without competition? The FAA’s decision is based on the false assumption that competition exists,” said Ken Mead, AOPA’s general counsel. “The implications are clear: Signature will continue to charge pilots for services they do not need, want, or use—a business practice the FAA calls ‘common.’ It would also mean that private FBOs at federally funded public-access airports can play by a different set of rules than municipally operated FBOs and airports providing aeronautical services to airlines,” the association’s release said.

AOPA said the decision doesn’t set a binding precedent for other airports, but it believes the FAA’s reasoning is “indicative of a flawed perspective at the FAA that has allowed certain monopoly-position FBOs to impose unreasonable fees on GA users and could worsen.”

Picture of the Week, June 7, 2018
Plane Sailing's Canso A amphibian G-PBYA 'Miss Pick Up' repainted in its current magnificent scheme representing a wartime USAAF OA-10A Catalina 44-33915 of the 8th Air Force 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron at Halesworth, Suffolk. Shot at the former RAF Flying Station Killadeas on June 2, 2018, during the Lough Erne Yacht Club's Seawings Festival in celebration of 100 years of the Royal Air Force. Copyrighted photo by Alan Jarden.

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NASA Flies RPA Without Chase Airplane
Paul Bertorelli

In a test it says moves drones closer to being integrated into the National Airspace System, NASA on Tuesday flew its Ikhana remotely piloted aircraft without a chase plane for the first time. The flight took place at the agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.

‘This is a huge milestone for our Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the National Airspace System project team,” said NASA’s Ed Waggoner, who directs the agency’s Integrated Aviation Systems Program. Integrating unmanned aircraft into the NAS has been an overarching goal of both the FAA and NASA, with detect-and-avoid capability for the drone a difficult technical challenge to overcome.

The FAA granted NASA special permission to fly Tuesday’s test without a chase aircraft, allowing the remote pilot to rely on the latest detect-and avoid technology, enabling the ground-based pilot to see and avoid other aircraft during the flight. The Ikhana was equipped with an airborne radar developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., a Honeywell TCAS System, a detect-and-avoid Fusion Tracker and ADS-B.

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Rolls-Royce Announces New Engine Family
Paul Bertorelli

Building on the BR700 engine used in regional jets, Rolls-Royce has formally announced a new family of engines to be called Pearl. Rolls said the Pearl 15 will develop 15,125 pounds of thrust and will exclusively power Bombardier’s new Global 5500 and 6500 business aircraft. 

The engines were revealed conceptually a few years ago, but the recent announcement from the company formalizes the program. Like the BR700 from which it descends, the Pearl family are twin-spool engines, meaning the high-pressure compressor and turbines are mounted on a shaft that’s concentric to the shaft carrying the low-pressure compressor and turbine blades.

The new engines are designed specifically for long-range business jets and will be capable of delivering speeds up to Mach 0.9, according to Bombardier. While providing up to 9 percent more thrust during takeoff than the BR700, the Pearl is 2 dB quieter and offers lower NOx emissions. The engine received EASA certification in February and is expected to go into service at the end of 2019.

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Do You Have An Aviation Dream Job?
AVweb Staff

Do you have an aviation dream job? AVweb wants to hear from you. From flying to fixing, we’re looking for stories about fascinating and unusual GA jobs. Surprise us with the rare aircraft you instruct in, specialized maintenance you do, or anything else beyond the average aviation industry workday. Please submit up 500 words about what you do and a photo of you in your work environment to Selected stories will be edited—with author approval—and run on our website. Authors of chosen stories will receive an AVweb baseball cap.

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