While the industry awaits the certified replacement for leaded avgas, Swift Fuels says it’s moving forward with a plan to market an aviation-approved low-octane fuel suitable for a significant portion of the fleet that doesn’t require 100-octane fuel for high-horsepower engines.
The fuel is an unleaded 94-motor octane product approved under an aviation spec, according to Swift Fuels’ Chris D’Acosta. At least for the near term, it envisions a two-fuel solution to the leaded avgas supply problem, one low-octane product and a second 100-octane or higher fuel for high-horsepower engines.
“We believe it fills the need for many lower-octane aircraft and historically, that has been the auto gas fleet. But there’s a class of aircraft that are 91-motor octane that are not capable of using autogas, so we’ve made a 94-octane fuel for them. Why 94? It’s an anti-detonation safety measure. It makes sure that even lower-octane engines have a higher margin of safety. It covers a larger swath of the fleet and this fuel works with light sport aircraft,” D’Acosta told AVweb in a podcast recorded at AirVenture on Friday.
D’Acosta pointed out that this new 94-octane product isn’t related to the higher-octane fuel Swift developed as a candidate for a 100LL replacement. “We have two fuels in that evaluation. They’re all high-octane, 102-motor octane fuels and the expectation is that those two fuels will be evaluated for fleetwide approval. The timetable for that master plan goes through 2018, as everyone knows,” D’Acosta said. Swift, along with two other companies, has submitted candidate fuels to the FAA’s Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, or PAFI. As we reported previously during our AirVenture coverage, that process appears on track to yield at least one if not more approved 100LL replacements by 2018.
Swift has already started distribution of the new fuel in the Midwest at three locations (Indiana and Michigan) and plans to expand its market reach this year and next. When queried about the retail price of Swift’s fuel, D’Acosta said that depends on retail markup, but the FBOs selling Swift 94 have priced it in the $4 to $4.25 range, which makes it at least $1 cheaper than the current average of 100LL, according to airnav.com’s pricing data. Airnav has mogas at a U.S. average of about $4, so Swift 94 appears competitive with mogas. However, like mogas, it will require owners to purchase an STC, which Swift has worked with Petersen Aviation to obtain and sell. D’Acosta said the STCs, which apply to hundreds of aircraft engines, sell for $3 per horsepower and are available on the company’s website at SwiftFuels.com.