11 years and $73 million more?

This week, information regarding the UAT-ARC’s long-anticipated/long-overdue report on a new fuels approval process was leaked to the public.  The most astounding revelation is that the committee is calling on taxpayers to spend $60 million more to fund an effort to find a drop-in, lead-free replacement for 100LL, while the industry is expected to chip in another $13 million.

Considering that not a single major avgas producer has invested serious capital into this effort, the latter sum of $13 million is doubtful.

Given the state of the U.S. economy in the Great Recession, the former amount of $60 million is equally doubtful. Pilots are supposed to also wait another 11 years for a solution, despite it being more than two decades since the effort was begun.

This sure sounds like throwing “good money after bad” and one wonders if the goal is truly to replace avgas, or is it to fund research, or buy time in the hopes that environmental groups lose interest in leaded avgas, or perhaps wait until the remaining aircraft that require 100 octane fuels are taken out of service or are modified with the Petersen/AirPlains ADI water-injection system and run on autogas?

Remember too that ARC members only a few months ago admitted that a drop-in replacement is now unlikely and that multiple fuels will be the more probable solution, as was recently reported by AVweb from the AERO show in Germany. One has to wonder if the right hand of the UAT-ARC knows what the left hand is doing, and if any of the members has a serious grasp on the current state of the U.S. economy and its ability to continue funding for an effort that has produced exactly ZERO new unleaded replacements for 100LL after nearly a quarter century of trying.

One encouraging sign that the aviation community is not going to wait another 11 years for a solution is the continued interest in adding autogas at airports.  The free, non-profit Aviation Fuel Club is a grass-roots organization that has helped dozens of airports in the past two years and one of its directors, GAfuels co-author Dean Billing, publishes a list and map of airports offering the fuel. While relatively few airports in the U.S. offer autogas, the number that do exceeds the sum of all airports in Europe selling Hjelmco Oil’s 91/96UL or AirTotal’s UL91.

The club is organizing ‘Unleaded to Oshkosh’ (U2OSH), an event at EAA AirVenture 2012 to underscore the popularity, affordability and safety of lead-free, ethanol-free autogas, an FAA-approved aviation fuel since 1982.

A second encouraging sign that the global fuel industry has other solutions already in place is an event titled The Future of Avgas planned for June 30 at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying. The guest speaker is Lars Hjelmberg of Swedish avgas producer Hjelmco Oil.

The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft: Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., a pilot, homebuilder and 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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