In a recent blog posted on General Aviation News by Ben Visser, he made a point that poses a serious conundrum for the conversion to unleaded avgas: “The big problem here is that almost all of the aircraft piston engines out there need to be broken-in on 100LL, then they can be switched over to auto gas. But if they are started on auto gas when new, they will probably have exhaust valve problems.” The exhaust valve problems that Ben is alluding to is commonly known as “valve seat recession.”
Your bloggers have reported this year on Florida’s ethanol mandates, which took effect in January of this year. As a consequence, Florida’s huge boating and sport aviation communities have suffered from a lack of ethanol-free fuel and all the known negative effects of ethanol blends. It seems that consumers have had enough and are prepared to repeal the mandate, thanks to a bill passing through committee in the Florida Legislature sponsored by Representative Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach.
The Oct. 7 issue of General Aviation News included several articles warning against the dire consequences of user fees being proposed by our federal government. In a letter to the editor, Kevin Mossey even made the astounding claim that we “all need to sacrifice” by accepting higher fuel taxes. One can only imagine that he works for the government, the only sector of our economy that has not experienced Great Depression-era unemployment the past three years.
In this same issue of GAN, LSA expert Dan Johnson reported that 122 new S-LSA models have been certified in the past six-and-a- half years. Congratulations Dan! Most of these aircraft come from European nations that have funded their aviation infrastructure through user fees for decades, hardly consistent with the gloom-and-doom predictions from our aviation alphabets.
In November, the FAA published its latest “Reciprocating Engine Aircraft Fleet Fuel Distribution Report” DOT/FAA/AR-TN11/22. As described in the report’s abstract, “The purpose of the data analysis was to establish a baseline of aviation fuels currently in use by all reciprocating engine-powered aircraft to quantitatively assess the effect of first reducing and, eventually, eliminating the tetraethyl lead content on the population of aircraft currently certificated by the FAA.”
Incredibly, the report states that “Only 0.4% of the aircraft are approved to use unleaded fuel.” On further study, the report reveals that its authors were allowed to report only on fuels specified in aircraft Type Certificates, completely ignoring the fact that some 60,000 Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) have been issued for lead-free autogas since 1982.
Pilots in west central Idaho and eastern Oregon have cause for celebration: The Payette Municipal Airport (S75) in Payette, Idaho, added 91 AKI ethanol-free, lead-free autogas last month. Currently priced at $4.10, the fuel is more than a dollar less expensive than 100LL, both fuels being sold from the airport’s self-service fuel station.
In the past three years, the authors of the GAFuels blog have assisted countless pilots, flight schools, flying clubs, FBOs, airport managers and others in the search for suppliers of ethanol-free autogas. If existing suppliers of the other FAA-approved aviation fuels (avgas and Jet-A) would offer autogas, our help would not be necessary. (Why they don’t sell it is a mystery to us — after all, these same companies already produce enormous quantities of autogas, then adulterate it with ethanol before selling it for highway use.)
Despite claims that manufacturing in North Carolina is in a death spiral, aircraft-related production continues to grow at an ever-increasing list of companies, including GE Aviation, GE Honda Aero Engines, HondaJet, Spirit AeroSystems, BE Aerospace, MX Aircraft, Allegro LSA, Twin Commander Aircraft, Atlantic Aero, Preceptor Aircraft, and probably a few others I’m not aware of. While many of these firms are headquartered elsewhere, a few are home-grown, for instance Aero Accessories and Marvel-Schebler of Gibsonville, N.C.