The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots: 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.
If you speak with any of the thousands of pilots who have enjoyed the benefits of autogas since the first STCs were approved by the FAA in 1982, you’ll notice their surprise that anyone would doubt that it is an excellent aviation fuel option for many aircraft. The same holds for the growing sector of LSA aircraft, whose engines are typically best run on 91+ AKI octane, ethanol-free, lead-free autogas. In recent months, your bloggers have heard from many of these pilots, dismayed that supplies of ethanol-free fuel are disappearing, and that the FAA appears to be unwilling to preserve their aviation fuel while focusing attention on finding a one-size-fits-all, drop-in replacement for leaded avgas. Following are comments from three of these pilots.
Stanley Edwards, private pilot, Raleigh, N.C: “I’ve used autogas in several partnership aircraft and sole owned aircraft over the years, for instance a 1974 Cessna 172 (650 hs.), 1971 Cessna 182 (1,300 hs.), 1964 Debonair (1,500 hs.), 1969 Cessna 150 (300 hs.) and a 1964 Cessna 172 (200 hs.). The only times I’ve purposely used 100LL has been after overhaul of the 182 engine, overhaul of the Debonair engine, new cylinders on the 150 and when no autogas was available when away from my home base. I have only good things to say about use of autofuel. The engines simply run cleaner. No engine wear or failure has been attributed to autogas use in any of these engines. The only engine problems I have had came with prolonged 100LL usage. With ethanol free now almost impossible to get, I really dread the increased maintenance.”
Bob Ward, president, Nutmeg Soaring Association, Freehold, N.Y: “Our glider club was founded in 1956. We have been using autogas for many years in our towplanes, a Piper Pawnee and an Aviat Husky. My fuel supplier just informed me that he can no longer get ethanol free, and we don’t know what to do. Why isn’t the FAA doing something to keep ethanol out of our fuel? If we have to switch to leaded avgas, our costs will go higher and we’ll lose members. Leaded fuel is also not good for our engines.”
Bob Cushing, owner, Sport Pilot Chicago at Cushing Field, Newark, Ill.: “I loaned the EAA one of my Cessna 172s in the 1980s so they could certify the plane for autogas use. I estimate that my fleet of training aircraft has, over the years, accumulated over 50,000 hours of safe operation running on autogas. For instance, we put 3,000 hours burning autogas in a Lycoming O-235 before an overhaul. The spark plugs stayed clean and we still had good compression at 3,000 hours.”