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Volume 25, Number 35c
August 31, 2018
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Swift Fuels Suspends PAFI Activities
Kate O'Connor

Swift Fuels announced that it has suspended its work activities with the FAA’s Piston Alternative Fuels Initiative (PAFI) unleaded 100LL replacement fuels program on Wednesday. The company says that it is now focusing on testing a high-octane unleaded avgas replacement that is not part of PAFI and working privately with the FAA and OEMs to get that fuel certified. According to Swift, it has already begun engine and flight testing of the new unleaded fuel.

“The company wants to maintain the momentum that we’ve started,” said Swift Fuels CEO Chris D’Acosta. “We’re hopeful our new fuel will be accepted by pilots as the ‘best’ fleetwide unleaded avgas alternative to replace 100LL.” D’Acosta also said that Swift expects their high-octane unleaded fuels to be priced competitively with 100LL.

The FAA announced in June that it was temporarily halting all PAFI flight testing and some engine testing while issues related to the differences between the two PAFI fuels and 100LL were assessed. Along with a formula from Shell, Swift’s unleaded 100LL replacement fuel was selected for PAFI Phase Two testing in March 2016. Since the June announcement, no further PAFI updates have been published and the FAA has not yet said if it plans to continue the program without Swift’s participation.

What If They Had A PAFI And No One Came?
Paul Bertorelli

Swift Fuel’s announcement that it’s bailing out of the FAA’s troubled Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative had an inevitability about it. Following the FAA’s announcement in June that it was suspending work on finding suitable unleaded replacements for 100LL, a not-that-subtle whiff of a certain metaphor related to chairs on the deck of a doomed ocean liner was detectable.

Without saying exactly that in its press release, Swift says it’s abandoning PAFI’s contorted path in favor of the same STC process already underway by General Aviation Modifications Inc. and, more recently, Phillips 66 partnered with Afton Chemical. Swift used the term “alternative pathway,” which, as far as I know, can only be an STC.

And then there was one. That would be Shell, who, along with Swift, had one of the two fuels perking through the PAFI process. Shell’s intentions are unknown, but based on Paul Millner’s reporting in this blog, the company doesn’t appear to be particularly impressed that lead is that bad. I won’t be the slightest bit surprised if they take a powder on PAFI and abandon the unleaded avgas effort entirely.

Fiasco doesn’t do justice to describing any of this. PAFI emerged because the industry—airframers, engine manufacturers, refiners—reasonably believed nothing would move off the dime until the FAA brought the various parts and pieces together in some kind of project that would yield a publishable standard for unleaded avgas similar to the ASTM D910 doc that has served leaded fuel so well. The FAA imprimatur was seen as must-have. It may turn out to be the poison pill, by the looks of it, or least the process is.

It appears to have run off the rails because all of the fuel companies—and especially Shell and Swift—came at the problem with unique chemical solutions that delivered the required 100 octane, all right, but were too different from 100LL to serve as the vaunted drop-in replacement. It’s different for conventional avgas because although one refiner’s alkylate may be a little better than the other’s, it’s chemically the same stuff. And tetraethyl lead is tetraethyl lead; use a little more or a little less to gin up the octane.

At AirVenture last year, the FAA admitted that each of the two fuels would cover a portion of the piston fleet, but neither would adequately cover all of it. And as Millner reported, non-linearities were noted when the fuels were intermixed with each other and with 100LL. Why this wasn’t foreseen as a cautionary for PAFI is puzzling, since the 50-cent tour of any refinery—or a high school chem lab—would suggest as much.

To further stymy PAFI’s potential for success, once the fuels entered the process, they couldn’t be tweaked or reformulated to address whatever shortcomings the very testing was supposed to reveal. My admittedly imperfect understanding of this is that it had to do with proprietary concerns and government vendor rules. But as GAMI’s George Braly pointed out, this defies the basis of research, which requires testing, fixing and retesting in a relentless intellectual pursuit of solving the problem at hand.

So now what? Will Shell re-enter the stalled PAFI process? And if so, can it address whatever shortcomings its fuel happens to have? If so, bully. It might own the market, land a workable ASTM standard and make a mint selling the stuff—or licenses—worldwide. I don’t think this is answerable right now.

Otherwise, welcome to the Balkanization of avgas. GAMI, Swift and Phillips are all pursuing discrete STCs. It’s unlikely all three of those fuels will meet the same standard, or maybe any standard, so if the STCs are approved, how is this supposed to work? Does one airport have Swift, another GAMI and yet another Phillips? And if so, can I intermix them and who’s going to warrant that this can be done safely. (Hint: It’s not going to be PAFI.)

Perhaps the STC applicants should add to their already burdened plate miscibility testing. But how do you do that until the other guy’s STC is approved? It gives me a headache trying to imagine an FAA bureaucrat with the guts to sign off on the testing program for that.

Don’t let it escape notice that Swift chose not to go quietly into that good night by withdrawing from PAFI, but issued a deliberate press release distancing itself from the PAFI rubble. I think it needs to do that to declare that it’s still in the game, but now on its own terms.

As Millner mentioned earlier this month, there are significant vulnerabilities here. Just because the current EPA has suspended the finding of endangerment against tetraethyl lead, that’s no guarantee it won’t re-emerge later, either by administrative fiat or court order. If GA settles back into its comfortable embrace of lead, we may have no ready replacement when the effort to ban it finally gets teeth. And there's Europe and perhaps Asia to think of. Both have their own concerns about leaded fuel.

In the smoke curling up from PAFI is this cheery thought: Those who thought the FAA was engaged in picking winners and losers via PAFI can take comfort from the notion that now the free market, not regulators, will have to sort this out. Maybe it was wrong to think the only way to solve this seemingly intractable problem was to have the FAA oversee it and jolly it along. We can all plainly see where that got us.

ARSA Urges Review of FAA ICA Enforcement
Kate O'Connor

The Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) has asked for a review of FAA enforcement of rules regarding instructions for continued airworthiness (ICA) such as aircraft maintenance manuals. In a comment filed with the U.S. Small Business Administration National Ombudsman’s office, ARSA stated that it believes “the FAA strictly enforces the requirement that repair stations possess maintenance manuals but does not enforce rules requiring design approval holders to make manuals available.”

ARSA claims that the FAA’s current enforcement practices are creating administrative and financial burdens for small businesses. “ARSA has attempted to work with the FAA for more than three decades to bring consistency to the agency’s application of its ICA rules,” said ARSA Executive Director Sarah MacLeod. “Unfortunately, our concerns have failed to illicit serious consideration or any discernible action.”

The Office of the National Ombudsman has no authority to make policy changes. It was established by Congress in 1996 to assist small businesses experiencing excessive or unfair federal regulatory enforcement actions and to act as an impartial liaison between those businesses and regulatory agencies. ARSA also requested that its comment (PDF) be sent to the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Healthy Pilot #15: Boosting Your Energy
Tim Cole

A lack of energy is one of those subtle health issues that are easy to ignore and hard to fix. We tend to brush off a lack of energy with a nap. But chronic lack of energy—especially for a busy pilot—can interfere with quality of life and even signal a potential health problem.

For this edition of Healthy Pilot, we looked at what energy is, and ways you can improve yours if you’re feeling a bit under the weather.  

Energy has two components: physical energy and mental energy. We achieve physical energy when the oxygen we breathe and the nutrients we consume travel through our blood stream to cells throughout our body. Structures in the cells called mitochondria convert the oxygen and nutrients into a chemical called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which provides energy for all human activity.

Mental acuity results when the ATP in your brain cells generates energy. But mental energy is also influenced by emotions, so positive thinking is a significant part of boosting your brain. What decides your energy level? Your genes play a part, but also sleep cycles, seasons and light, hormones, your body weight, your age and your overall health.

Food has a big influence. Muscles burn carbohydrates, but it’s important to pick your carbohydrates carefully: Avoid refined carbohydrates and instead concentrate on the kind of complex carbs found in high-fiber multi-grain bread, brown rice, whole-grain pasta and most vegetables. You need protein to maintain muscle and bone—and the best sources are lean animal protein like fatty-fish and skinless chicken. But don’t discount protein from plant-based sources like beans and legumes.


Stimulants like coffee have a short-term effect on energy levels. Be careful of overconsumption of energy drinks like Red Bull and Rockstar, which have caffeine, but also sugar.  Since 2004 the FDA has received reports of 34 deaths and 56 adverse reactions associated with energy drinks. Supplements like Coenzyme Q10 have been shown to increase exercise capacity, but more research is needed. The naturally occurring energy supplement DHEA has been touted as an energy booster, but there are concerns DHEA may increase the risk of breast and prostate cancer. Gingko biloba is perennially touted as a brain booster, but there are no strong studies available to prove the point.

What’s a pilot to do?

If you're find your energy flagging—and you want to stay sharp during a particularly tough flight, there are some things you can do:

Get plenty of sleep: That means early to bed and early to rise, with no energy-sapping alcohol the night before.

Eat for energy: Choose carbohydrates carefully, favoring fruits and vegetables.

Exercise: The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans says you should get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week. But any exercise is better than none—even walking up the stairs or across a parking lot. So don't discount--maybe even enhance-- the normal activity you’re already getting.

Control stress: Easier said than done. But stress-induced emotions consume a lot of energy, and the cockpit distractions caused by stress could be life threatening. If you are experiencing unusual stress because of trouble at home or work, it might be smart to dial back on your flying.

Consider meditation and other restoratives: Gardening, reading, walking in the park—they are all natural calmatives, and calm boosts energy.

Stay goal oriented: Explore your “why.” Why do you want to feel more energetic? So you can travel with your spouse? Have fun with your grandkids? Fly your airplane? Having a strong reason to eat better, sleep better, banish stress and focus on what’s important is a great way to boost energy.

Avidyne Entegra Displays Get ADS-B
Larry Anglisano

Until now, Avidyne Entegra displays—including ones in the sizable fleet of earlier Cirrus and many Piper models—couldn't display ADS-B data, but a new software upgrade from Avidyne adds the capability (on the MFD) when interfaced with a variety of ADS-B receivers.

The upgrade is to version R8.2 for EX5000 displays (the ones shown in the Piper Matrix cockpit above) and to version R4.2 for the smaller retrofit EX500/600 MFDs. Worth mentioning is if you have an Avidyne MLB700 Sirius or MLX770 Iridium satellite weather system connected to these smaller displays, those interfaces won't play after the upgrade and the software can't be backloaded. The software costs $999 and some Entegra displays will need to go to an Avidyne dealer for the upgrade.

As for compatible ADS-B receivers, Avidyne has purposely opened its architecture for cross-brand interfacing. Avidyne's own SkyTrax100 will work, using an industry-standard ARINC429/735 data protocol for traffic symbology, plus the new software works with the L3 NGT9000, Garmin GTX345, FreeFlight RANGR-RX and some other receivers that connect using the RS232 Capstone data protocol for FIS-B weather display.

Avidyne's R9 integrated retrofit cockpit also gets new software, which enables a full-up ADS-B interface, including ADS-B Out from Avidyne's AXP322 remote ADS-B transponder. The SkyTrax100 (ADS-B In) works in the R9 interface, too. For more, visit the Avidyne website.

At press time, there are 16 months until the FAA's ADS-B Out mandate.

NTSB Chair Sumwalt: “The FAA Should Act.”
Mary Grady

Robert Sumwalt, chair of the NTSB, posted a blog online this week critical of the FAA’s lack of action in the wake of a 2016 balloon crash that was the deadliest in U.S. history. Sixteen people, including the pilot, died when the hot-air balloon hit powerlines in Lockhart, Texas, while the pilot was attempting to land in poor visibility conditions. In its probable-cause report on the accident, the NTSB cited the pilot’s medical issues and use of medications as contributing factors, and also recommended the FAA should change its policy that exempts commercial balloon pilots from needing a medical certificate. “Two years after the Lockhart tragedy, and nearly 10 months after we issued this recommendation,” Sumwalt wrote, “we still haven’t received any indication that the FAA plans to require commercial balloon pilots to hold valid medical certificates. The FAA should act. The victims of this horrible accident and their families deserve nothing less, and future balloon passengers deserve better.” FAA spokesman Jim Peters told AVweb on Wednesday, “The Administrator [Acting Administrator Dan Elwell] is currently reviewing a further response to the [NTSB] recommendation.”

Peters also cited a response to the NTSB, sent by the FAA in December 2017, which says two teams of subject matter experts, from the FAA’s Airmen Training and Certification Branch and its General Aviation Operations Branch, would review the safety board’s recommendations and provide an update by this month. “If the two teams come to the conclusion not to adopt one or both safety recommendations (or an alternative), we will provide a clear explanation of the rationale behind our decision,” the FAA told the NTSB. The Statesman news site, based in Austin, Texas, noted in a story this week that a congressman from Austin won passage of an amendment to the FAA bill last week in the U.S. House that would require balloon operators to obtain a medical certificate. That bill has not yet come to the floor and is not expected to be voted on until after the November elections.

Garmin Acquires FltPlan
Kate O'Connor

Garmin announced that it has acquired Flight Plan LLC (FltPlan), an electronic flight planning, scheduling and trip support service provider that includes the website and FltPlan Go mobile app. According to the company, FltPlan has more than 165,000 registered users and its services are used to create approximately 6.3 million flight plans annually, making it one of the largest flight planning companies in the world.

“Thousands of pilots and operators depend on every day for their flight operation needs,” said FltPlan founder Ken Wilson. “We’re looking forward to leveraging decades of experience and industry leadership from Garmin to continue expanding and growing our service offerings and geographical reach for customers.”

FltPlan was established in 1999. It offers basic flight planning and filing services for free via the website and mobile app. The company also provides premium services including safety management, pre-departure clearances, international handling, flight tracking and runway analysis. Financial details of the acquisition have not been made public, but Garmin says that FltPlan’s Connecticut headquarters will continue to support FltPlan services. 

Aireon Clarifies GA Services
Mary Grady

Aireon Alert has promised to provide free emergency response tracking for any ADS-B-equipped aircraft, anywhere in the world—yet if a general aviation pilot goes to their website to register, they might get a different impression. “The service is only available to commercial aircraft operators, ANSPs [air navigation service providers], regulators and search and rescue organizations,” the website says. “The service is not designed for private pilots and the General Aviation (GA) community.” However, Aireon confirmed to AVweb in an email on Wednesday that the satellite-based service will help find a GA airplane in distress, by working with the search and rescue provider. There is no need for individual GA owners or pilots to register in advance.

If a properly equipped airplane goes missing, Aireon said, “the appropriate search-and-rescue organization can call the Aireon Alert 24/7 phone number and provide the missing aircraft’s unique ICAO 24-Bit Address (in HEX, i.e. 4CA123) or Flight ID. The Aireon Alert operator will search for the last known position of the aircraft, and if found, will provide that location in WGS84 coordinates to the search and rescue organization over the phone. The Aireon Alert operator will also email a report of the location of the missing aircraft to the designated representative within the pre-registered organization.” Aireon added that the satellite-based service was envisioned to provide rescue support especially above oceans, polar regions and mountainous terrain, where aircraft surveillance is currently lacking. The system is on track to begin operations early next year.

NBAA Says Business Aviation Salaries Up
Kate O'Connor

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) released the results of its annual Compensation Survey last week, showing an overall increase in pay for industry employees of 3 to 4 percent on average compared to the 2017 survey results. The 2018 survey collected salary data on 16 job descriptions from 790 member companies that represent 4,130 employees.

“The survey shows that our members are adjusting and keeping up with industry trends,” said Peter Korns, NBAA’s manager of tax, operations and workforce engagement. “As our industry continues to work to attract and retain quality talent we are seeing real efforts to fairly compensate pilots and mechanics who may otherwise seek out alternative opportunities.”

According to NBAA’s data, the category experiencing the largest salary increase was aviation department managers (non-flying), where compensation was up 30 percent from the 2017 numbers for an average of $205,000. Maintenance foremen salaries increased 14 percent to $127,000 and senior captains saw a 12 percent increase to average $164,000. The survey wasn’t all good news, however. Line service personnel average salary dropped by 10 percent and dispatcher salaries experienced a 12 percent decrease, which NBAA says is cause for further analysis.

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Picture of the Week, August 30, 2018
A D-Day veteran C-47 sitting quietly at its station in Douglas, GA. Copyrighted photo by Tom Glass.

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