Aviation Fuel at EAA AirVenture 2011

GAfuels co-author Kent Misegades, just back from AirVenture, summarizes below some of the aviation fuel-related news gleaned from among the hundreds of forums, workshops, press releases, and countless conversations with exhibitors and attendees:

Aviation Fuel Club and Sport Fuel: Despite heavy downpours, Kent’s talk attracted a crowd of 30 to 40 people, many of whom were very familiar with the topic. For a copy of his slides, see this link. Perhaps the best comment following the talk came from Cesar Gonzalez, who for many years led Cessna’s technical efforts concerning fuels for piston engines. He expressed his agreement with this material, and encouraged us to continue with our efforts.

100LL Replacement: The much-anticipated “Unleaded Avgas Transition ARC Report-Out” scheduled for Wednesday afternoon was canceled due to the current Congressional impasse over the FAA’s budget. Why FAA members were not able to participate via teleconferencing is not clear. Surely their slides could have been presented by another member of the ARC?

Lycoming: Company personnel under the bright red Lycoming tent confirmed reports that the new O-233 LSA engine, while currently categorized as an experimental powerplant, will be submitted for ASTM compliance for use in LSA category aircraft. The naturally-aspirated O-233 will be first, followed by the IO-233 fuel-injected version. Both are expected to be approved for 91 AKI, lead-free, ethanol-free autogas. The company’s more powerful, FADEC-equipped engines currently approved for 93 AKI lead-free, ethanol-free autogas should be capable of running well on 91 AKI, commented one Lycoming engineer who expected approval of the lower-octane fuel in the future. Note that Lycoming’s approval pertains only to the powerplant; certification of an engine-airframe combination is necessary for anything other than E-AB (experimental) category aircraft. (Note that Petersen Aviation already offers a wide variety of 91 AKI autogas STCs for Lycoming engines.)

Rotax: In his forum on Rotax 912 maintenance on Tuesday, Phil Lockwood of Lockwood Aviation commented on damage they are observing on engines caused by ethanol. He showed how ethanol’s presence rapidly crazes transparent fuel lines, rendering them opaque. (Fuel starvation in an LSA used by the EAA’s Air Academy several summers ago was blamed partially on the pilot’s inability to read the fuel level in crazed fuel sight gauges.) Lockwood also described the recommended oil change frequency depending on the fuel: 100 hours for ethanol-free autogas, 50 hours for a mixture of ethanol-free autogas and avgas, and 25 hours for 100% avgas.

Dave Sclair: During AirVenture, we were saddened with the news that former General Aviation News Publisher Dave Sclair has gone West. When GAN acquired our regional aviation newspaper The Southern Aviator some years ago, it was feared that the vibrant aviation community here in the South would lose its best voice. Dave assured us that would not happen, and the content since then has proven him good to his word — General Aviation News remains the best source for the latest news affecting recreational pilots, providing a cross-section of topics second to none. Dave’s willingness to take on controversial topics was refreshing, allowing experts to weigh in and his informed readership to come to their own conclusions. While he will be missed, the current publisher, his son Ben Sclair, and experienced editor Janice Wood are clearly following in his footsteps. Wishing you CAVU forever, Dave.

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.

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