Sometimes it’s the small things that make a big difference

One of the highlights of the aviation year is EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. The week-long gathering is great for many reasons, but mostly I enjoy seeing old friends and finding out what is new in the technical end of the business.


One of the highlights of the aviation year is EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. The week-long gathering is great for many reasons, but mostly I enjoy seeing old friends and finding out what is new in the technical end of the business.

The big ticket items always receive most of the press coverage. For example, almost everyone has written or featured the Rutan airplanes in their publications ? and rightly so, as these planes are fascinating and have given general aviation a great deal of much needed publicity. Besides, Burt Rutan and his aircraft are amazing.

But many times the small things are equally important to the continued health and growth of our industry. As I walked around the show, I was amazed at the number of new products, the innovation of some of the improvements and the upgrades to existing products.

For example, as I walked past the BP Castrol Tent, I spotted an old friend, Cesar Gonzales. Cesar worked for Cessna for many years as the company’s fuels expert. One of his accomplishments at Cessna was to get the 82 UL spec adopted by ASTM. ASTM is the organization that writes and maintains the specifications that are used in many industries worldwide. For example, when you buy a gallon of 100/130 LL avgas, you are purchasing a product that must meet all of the requirements as listed in ASTM D 910.

During my conversation with Cesar, he showed me his latest project, which is a solution to a potential problem: how to ensure that an aircraft with a new diesel cycle Jet A engine is not misfueled with avgas. Years ago, we had the problem of line crews putting Jet A in avgas aircraft, especially planes with the word turbo in the name, like a Turbo 210. The solution to that problem was the introduction of a rectangle nozzle end for Jet A equipment that was too large to fit into the fill neck of avgas aircraft. Now the reverse is the problem. Line crews see a piston powered aircraft pull up and automatically think avgas. The smaller fill nozzle for the avgas fuel system will fit easily into the larger Jet A fill neck on the diesel cycle Jet A engined aircraft, and then the engine runs into trouble shortly after take off.

Cesar’s solution is a Jet A sized fill neck with a flap about 2 inches below the top opening. When a Jet A nozzle is inserted into the neck, it fits into a slot which opens the flap so that normal fueling can occur. When an avgas nozzle is inserted, it will fill the small volume between the neck and flap, and then splash back to shut off the automatic nozzle.

Two things impressed me about this product. First was the simplicity of the solution. There are no bells and whistles or even an electronic readout with a computer, just a simple, almost fool proof, mechanical solution. The other was the foresightedness of Air BP to fund the development of a solution for a potential problem, especially since this product will not generate any revenue for the company.

Whenever you get two or more pilots together, the conversation usually gets around to liability and the death grip it has on general aviation. If we ever hope to get out from under this cloud, we are going to need a lot more solutions like the Air BP fill neck. We need to design safety into all products and procedures through cooperation from all parts of our industry.

Ben Visser is an aviation fuels and lubricants expert who spent 33 years with Shell Oil. He has been a private pilot since 1985. You can contact him at Visser@GeneralAviationNews.com.

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