10 Mogas myths

The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft: Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., an expert on autogas and ethanol, and Kent Misegades, Cary, N.C., an aerospace engineer, aviation sales rep for U-Fuel, and president of EAA1114.

Evidence of the growing interest in the use of affordable, lead-free, ethanol-free autogas, AKA, “Mogas,” in General Aviation is evidenced by Ben Visser’s recent article on the topic, The fuel of the future: Is it already here? and the results of a survey conducted by AVWeb. Further evidence is the overwhelming interest we’ve experienced to the introduction of the Aviation Fuel Club, the new Sport Fuel program, and thousands of comments on our petition calling on a ban of the blending of ethanol in Premium gasoline. There remains, however, some confusion about the pro and cons of using Mogas, something we hope to dispel below:

Myth #1 – Gasoline used in airplanes is unsafe. Fact – International standard ASTM D4814 is used for both fuel production and engine TC/STC certification. Mogas has been an FAA-approved aviation fuel since the 1980s and has had an excellent safety record.

Myth #2 – Gasoline is unstable. Fact – Modern gasoline remains stable for at least six months. Addition of some fresh fuel “rejuvenates” old Mogas. Adding ethanol to the fuel dramatically reduces its life.

Myth #3 – Gasoline is not as “clean” as 100LL. Fact – This is a problem of the past mostly eliminated through modern filters. Modern RFG (Reformulated Gasoline required in many parts of the US) is the cleanest burning gasoline made.

Myth #4 – Seasonal/regional formulations cause problems. Fact – Provided fuel remains ASTM D4814 compliant, this can be managed.

Myth #5 – Mogas is less “powerful” than 100LL. Fact – 91 octane E0 Mogas has 3%-5% more BTUs/gallon than 100LL. Lead deposits from 100LL can reduce power, though.

Myth #6 – Higher octane is always better. Fact – Only if needed for anti-detonation. Octane does not increase power. Higher octane is always more expensive, though.

Myth #7 – You can’t find ethanol-free Mogas. FactPURE-GAS.org lists more than 2,600 sellers across the country. The Aviation Fuel Club will help you find suppliers who deliver to airports.

Myth #8 – Gasoline producers won’t sell E0. Fact – Perhaps not at retail stations, however many fuel terminals around the country sell ethanol-free fuels to airports, marinas, farms, etc.

Myth #9 – A Mogas pump is too expensive. Fact – The Aviation Fuel Club will help find low-cost options, which might mean a small military surplus fuel trailer. U-Fuel has developed a line of smaller, self-service Sport Fuel stations ideal for GA airports wishing to add mogas.

Myth #10 – Mogas at airports costs too much and takes revenue away from airports. Fact – Mogas is typically $1-$3 cheaper than 100LL and makes its seller a profit. Airports selling mogas recoup revenue lost to self-fuelers, help sport aviation and flight schools grow, and retain the same flowage fees as 100LL sales. They also make real reductions in lead emissions, a serious public relations issue for General Aviation.

Comments

  1. Does anyone remember when the petroleum industry bad mouthed gasohol. They said it would ruin car engines. They of course promoted their own fuel additives which were found to be really toxic. So, ethanol blended gasoline is now widely used in cars, light trucks, small tractors, and gas engines of every size. I hear no horror stories except from a few die-hards that refuse to use anything but premium gasoline even though their owners manuals say that 87-88 octane is just fine. I wonder why ethanol can’t be used in aircraft engines?
    I think in a short time, butanol will be economically produced and available for use in internal combustion engines. It can be transported via the same pipelines and infrastructure as is gasoline. It has nearly the same amount of energy as does gasoline. It will be made from all sorts of cellulose products—trees, grass, paper, etc. Theoretically, it should be very abundant and cheap—theoretically!!! As with ethanol, water is miscible in butanol which is good since it will prevent ice in fuel tanks, fuel lines, etc. I am hoping that these alternative fuels help make flying affordable again. Not many general aviation enthusiasts can afford to pay $6.00/gallon for avgas.

  2. Jim Smisek says:

    Just came across this by accident and had to chime in. I have been using Mogas in my daily commuter airplanes since the STCs first came out without any noticeable problems other than on a 110 degree day in Texas after heat soaking the from a 2 hour flight. And that was simply a hard start. Yep, Mogas is used daily (300+ hours/year), Yes I commute to work by airplane. Live on an airpark North of Dallas and commute into Dallas by air – daily using Mogas. I can run my engine 2400 hours TBO (twice) plus without valve problems and typically without interim cylinder change (religious oil changes every 35 hours). Mogas has become more difficult to find but it is out there and fortunate for me from at least 3 competitive sources within reasonable driving range. Mogas is GREAT and using it allows me to commute by air cheaper than by car.

    • Jim-

      It’s good to hear a success story like this! I’ve been contemplating commuting into Dallas. Any additional details would be greatly appreciated (like where mogas is sold in dfw).
      Thanks,

      Ryan

      • Ryan,
        I would assume Jim, being on an airpark, has access through the airpark. As I don’t buy 100LL outside except when on longer trips returning, he probably doesnt buy fuel in Dallas. The only mogas on an airport close to you is Winnsboro, so you either must have a storage tank, or use red cans. I live in southwest Arkansas, where distributors are plentiful for E0 mogas. I have my own tank next to my own hangar on a private grass strip convenient to my home. When my tank is low, I have 400-500 gallons brought in. Now, at 2.00 per gallon savings, this is very worth while and pays for annuals and land lease. But….the tank idea only works if you fly regularly, or if you share cost with other pilots, as they may do at Jim’s airpark. That being said, my Cherokee 235 runs great and I figure at 125-150 hours a year, I spread considerable savings to be used on other necessary things. By the way, I now have an EAA member who keeps his plane at the strip using out of my tank. If you worry about fuel stability over months having large volume available in a tank, sharing the usage and expense will turn the tank quicker.

  3. Steve McNew says:

    Given the rise in interest in LSA flying, and the cost of fuel as a real deterrent, what I believe that GA needs is more mogas – at my airport, some pilots bring it in, in cans, from a dealer some distance away. If sold here, even from a freestanding tank, I can only believe that our airport would be enlivened.

  4. Choller says:

    “Myth #5 – Mogas is less “powerful” than 100LL. Fact – 91 octane E0 Mogas has 3%-5% more BTUs/gallon than 100LL. Lead deposits from 100LL can reduce power, though.”

    You are comparing energy content per unit quantity  (BTUs / gallon) to ‘power’ ‘energy per unit time’. The 100LL will produce more power in a given engine as it explodes faster and therefore can spin the engine faster (given that the engine can be cooled and can handle the extra RPM). So myth 5 is not a myth, it is a fact.

    •  HIgher octanes will compress further before spontaneous combustion due to heat from high compression-IE why high performance engines require higher octane to prevent detonation; I haven’t seen anything concluding that the ‘flame front’ of the expanding gasses after ignition moves faster in a high octane fuel. Do you have anything to back up the energy per unit time argument?

  5. Kent Misegades says:

    Tim, no one is suggesting that mogas is a solution for those who need 100 octane fuels. But it is a good solution for 70%-80% of all legacy piston aircraft and essentially 100% of all new LSAs. To ignore affordable, lead-free mogas as an important aviation fuel is irresponsible. To deny millions of Americans whose engines in boats, power tools, old cars, airplanes, etc. can not operate with any level of ethanol is also irresponsible.

  6. I have been flying a c-180 on floats (in sept 20 take off and landing a day) using mogas for 15years.Love it no problems 2 engines went time x.I use prem

  7. Keith Ellis says:

    We have used Mogas in our certified Diamond DA-20-A1 for years now. The airplane came from the factory approved for Mogas and the Rotax engine runs better on Mogas than 100LL. Use of Mogas allows the use of full synthetic oil, which prolongs engine life. We have never had any issue with the use of Mogas in several hundred hours of flying the Katana. Diamond and Rotax have both approved the use of up to E10 without limitation, although E0 is preferred.

  8. This is all well and good for ‘sport pilots’. What about those of us who fly higher performance and turbo charged aircraft? Will ‘mogas’ work for us?

    • Mike Willey says:

      One of the main reasons that 100LL is around is the fact that it IS the only solution for high compression aviation engines. However, as Kent said, MOGAS is good for most all of the low compression CONT and LYC engines and of course the new designs like ROTAX 912 series that were designed to run on MOGAS.. So the bottom line is that 70 to 80 percent of the light aircraft flying can use MOGAS

  9. Tom Clark says:

    The true solution to this problem is the two companies that are developing a drop in replacement for 100LL, Swift and GAMI. The aviation industry needs to contavt their legislators and ask them to help with the development of these fuels. If we can get to the Moon and build hoover dam with our tax dillars the Feds can help with this!!!!

  10. We have about 750,000 hours on ethanol – paying $1.50 per gallon – produces 20% more power than gas and extends my TBO from 2000 to almost 4000 hours and my Cessnas are already STC approved for ethanol. This is much safer than gas and better for the engine and much much better for the environment. This is also a big selling point to my customers because we are a Green renewable fuel. The Cessnas were just certified in the Domincan Republic to burn Rum – yes rum – at $1 per gallon. The aviation industry is going down the wrong road trying to recreate expensive gas replacement controlled by a few large corporation I can actually produce my own fuel when I want to take that next step.

    • Bruce, you’ve got some wild and crazy comments on burning ethanol…….Ethanol is less BTU’s/unit which directly means less power. That’s the same reason you will always everytime get less mpg in your car from ethanol. Later model vehicles handle the fuel just fine and it’s cheaper per gallon, but you get less mileage (which may even translate to being more expensive per mile). And doubling your TBO by diluting with 10-15% alcohol…definitely no factual basis for that one. Safe to run – probably so. All the other stuff – definitely not. As for being greener, you are burning people and animal feedstock by using ethanol (corn). So, while it is a renewable source, it directly increases virtually all food prices. Mexico had riots over the increases in tortilla prices (corn). Ethanol is heavily subsidized. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t even exist because it is a money loser without your tax dollars propping it up (buying it down). And would you get me some of that $1.00/gallon rum while you’re down there? thx

  11. Dennis Reiley says:

    Finally a good article on the advantages of Mogas. But I disagree on the difficulties of an ethanol blend, which is mostly because of the design of aviation engines and aircraft fuel systems. Every gasoline engine manufacturer or rebuilder should be producing those engines to not only operate with Mogas but also with an ethanol blend. Nothing can be done with current engines, but the aviation industry needs to prepare for the future and there are only a few in the aviation industry that are seriously doing so.

    It’s the attitude of “we’ve always done it this way”, yep they have, all aircraft used to be biplanes and the engines were lubricated with Castor oil too. Not many of those flying today though.

    Ethanol production is subsidized, it is done in the hope that eventually a blend of gasoline and ethanol will be cheaper and better. Whether that will transpire is in some doubt. But the aviation industry cannot afford to be caught unprepared and that has already happened with the move to unleaded fuels. The argument that ethanol deteriorates faster is invalid as there are additives and you should do preventative maintenance on all powered machinery after it has been in long term storage before placing it in service. Aircraft are not an exception.

    Every manufacturer of aircraft and aviation engines using gasoline must face the fact that they must lead or their customers and their competitors will eventually demand they get out of the way.

  12. Philippe DUCROCQ says:

    Lead additive available at FBO’s to the small minority of high compression engines would avoid grounding excellent planes and considerably diminish lead pollution by aircraft fleet

Trackbacks

  1. [...] following with interest the “unleaded avgas” research and experimentation with “mogas” and biofuels, and this is one issue that is not going to go away, no matter how much the [...]

  2. [...] The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft: Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., …www.generalaviationnews.com/2011/03/16/10-mogas-myths/ [...]

Speak Your Mind

*