The FAA’s broken record?

As General Aviation News reported yesterday, the FAA has issued a long-anticipated request for proposals for a lead-free drop-in replacement for avgas.

As described in the agency’s press release from June 10, “The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today asked the world’s fuel producers to submit proposals for fuel options that would help the general aviation industry make a transition to an unleaded fuel. The FAA is committed to the development of a new unleaded fuel by 2018 that would minimize the impact of replacing 100 octane low-lead fuel for most of the general aviation fleet.”

One has to wonder if these same officials read the aviation press, especially recent reports on the widespread use of mogas as one of a number of different options available to pilots outside the United States?

Even more amazing is the agency’s incorrect claim: “There are approximately 167,000 aircraft in the United States and a total of 230,000 worldwide that rely on 100 low lead avgas for safe operation.”

As the authors of this blog determined last year by a simple analysis of the FAA’s own, publicly-available Registry of Aircraft, well over 80% of all piston engine aircraft in the U.S. are legally and safely able to operate today on mogas, either through a low-cost STC or the aircraft’s original type certificate.  Surely these same officials saw the well-publicized news last year of the FAA-certified water-injection system from INPULSE that could allow virtually any high-compression engine to operate on mogas?

While the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results) is one explanation for the FAA’s continued determination to pursue a failed policy of one-and-only-one fuel for our aircraft, there must be saner, more logical reasons for the agency not simply allowing free markets to sort out what is best for aviation in each situation.

The same companies that produce and deliver avgas and Jet-A are fully capable of producing aviation-grade mogas and bringing it to our airports, just as they do in Europe.

Aviation fuel is exempted from all ethanol blending mandates (otherwise avgas would contain it). Fuel equipment manufacturers offer small, turnkey self-service fuel systems that can be easily financed without the need for airport funding and that pay for themselves in a few years, refuting one of the more common reasons cited against a multiple-fuel solution.

Can anyone provide a logical explanation for the FAA’s continued insistence on dictating a one-size-fits-all solution to aviation’s needs?

Comments

  1. Greg W says

    The logical explanation for the FAA’s continued insistence on dictating a one-size-fits-all solution to aviation’s needs? The reason is the money, the majority that does not need 100 octane also have the much less costly aircraft and operation budgets. The newer or “higher” performance aircraft are what get noticed and therefore are the ones that are listened to as well. A simple case of the golden rule, those that have the gold rule. Those of us on the lighter less costly end of aviation will be left on our own, and likely with the bill. Mogas and 94UL would be great for many of us but I doubt that we will see much of either.

  2. David Gaeddert says

    I know I’m eccentric but I do get my facts straight. Swift Fuels–SF100/102UL–has an ASTM spec, is being tested, reportedly successfully, guaranteed 102 octane. Check their web site, go to uspto.gov to read their patent. Guaranteed 100 octane, no lead, no alcohol should be of interest to more than GA. As our CFI’s tell us “get ahead of the plane, act like you own it.”

    I think FAA is being throttled by big oil and ethanol/corn lobby. Note how fast congress un furloughed ATC to get home faster to beg for donations, then let runway repair lag.

    • Kent Misegades says

      Makes one wonder why the FAA is asking again for ideas if Swift is already moving forward. More power to them!

  3. Kent Misegades says

    One small correction to my comments in this posting – reports from the FAA appear to indicate that they no longer expect a drop-in replacement for 100LL to be feasible. That is a move in the right mental direction. However no where does the FAA mention the 30+ year success of mogas as an alternative for the vast majority of aircraft owners, nor is there any recognition of the success of a mogas+avgas solution in Europe that has evolved with little if any government involvement. In fact, mogas is not only in widespread use thanks to FAA-approved STCs from the EAA and an American company, Petersen Aviation, but as a result essentially all new aircraft engines from Europe are designed to operate on premium mogas. Ethanol’s use is now mandated across Europe yet avgas suppliers deliver an aviation-grade, ethanol-free mogas to airports. The FAA also does not recognize the growing role that Jet-A aviation diesel engines are playing in aviation. Given their widespread use in European passenger cars, I would expect to see these new diesels be adopted by many airframe manufacturers. Jet-A is relatively cheap and available all over the world, thanks to airlines. Clearly we should spend a bit more as taxpayers for FAA travel as they need to get out more and see where the world is heading.

  4. TomSpann says

    The June 10th release by the FAA is grossly inaccurate. What have these people been reading and what gatherings have they attended. They surely were not at sun n fun or Oshkosh and attended any forums for the past few years.

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