QUIT WHINING ABOUT ETHANOL

There’s the problem with ethanol-based fuel! It may consume more energy in its production that it itself will produce. It may cost more than petroleum-based fuels it replaces. Taxpayers may have to continue subsidizing it until the public comes to its senses. However, until that happens politicians and newspaper editors, particularly here in the Corn Belt (they don’t call us corn huskers for nothing), will keep pushing it.

So what’s the solution? Four guys up in North Dakota have been performing formation aerobatics in O-320 powered RV-4s for more than a decade burning straight 100% ethanol. The world’s car makers have adapted existing automobile engines to burn the stuff in quantities ranging from 10% to 85%. So what’s the big stumbling block with airframes and aircraft single engine manufacturers?

It produces less power from a given quantity. Okay, so use a slightly bigger engine. Or put up with somewhat less performance. We did that for several years with our Pratt and Whitney R-2800-CB17s when 115/145-octane fuel was eliminated. They ran fine and gave us the same TBO.

Vapor lock you say? Easily overcome. Bigger fuel lines. A boost pump will clear it. In a 34-day period during one hot summer I flew 148 hours in a triplet of Continental-powered Beechcraft A23 Musketeers that vapor locked every afternoon. Hitting the boost pump for a couple seconds worked every time. Yeah, but those were all low-altitude flights in Minnesota. What about flying at 10,000 feet over the mountains? Automobiles burning 85% ethanol have climbed the road to the top of Pikes Peak (14,110 feet) with apparently no problem.

I’m tired of paying $5.15 a gallon for avgas. Taking advantage of my STC, I used mogas for one year. Without proper fueling facilities this is somewhat dangerous. In addition, fuel is wasted in the testing process, which is even more of a danger than the refueling itself. Then, what to do with contaminated fuel.

It’s time for the manufacturers and writers to quit whining! The stuff is here to stay and for a long time. If the engineers at Beech and Cessna and Piper and Lycoming and Continental can’t figure out how to make it work, maybe they should have a talk with a foursome of farmers up in North Dakota!

TOM GRIBBLE

Gering, Neb.

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