In defense of autogas

Recently an airport commissioner in North Carolina contacted us regarding his commission’s plans to add autogas as a means to lower the cost of flying and increase overall activity at his airport. A large Shell-branded avgas supplier based in his state refused to provide autogas, but he was able to find a local fuel jobber owned by a fellow pilot who was happy to bring 93 AKI ethanol-free fuel to this small airport, even in small quantities of a few thousand gallons.

At this time, the airport’s avgas supplier provided the commissioner with Shell Aviation Bulletin SAB Q109, which originated in the company’s U.K. office in 2009. An article authored by Shell’s Technology Manager for Aviation Fuel, Rob Midgley, starts with the bold headline “Motor Gasoline — The Dangers in Aviation Use.” The airport commissioner recently sent us SAB Q109 and asked us to comment on its accuracy.

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The engines of AERO Friedrichshafen

Your blogger is attending the AERO Friedrichshafen show in sunny southern Germany. Among the hundreds of exhibits are many new aircraft engines, some with names like Continental and Lycoming most Americans would recognize, but others that are relatively unknown in the U.S. While a full report will have to wait until next week, one thing is very clear: Europeans have already accepted a lead-free aviation future.

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UL91 explained

Last month, Lycoming expanded its support for alternative fuels by announcing that it was seeking EASA approval for operation of many of its engines on the unleaded aviation fuel UL91. The company also announced it was planning to approve its new O-233 LSA engine for autogas, a clear response to engines from Rotax, Jabiru, ULPower, HKS, Hirth, AeroVee and others that have been approved for autogas for years.

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The FBO fuel sales model is broken and anti-competitive

In almost every article about the future of leaded avgas, this statement appears, “… only one fuel will be stocked by the FBO system.” This particular quote comes from a reply by Mac McClellen to Todd Petersen in Mac’s latest Left Seat blog on the EAA’s website. You will also find it in almost every article and editorial from any aviation alphabet organization about the modern state of 100LL avgas.

My question is why are FBO’s the sole determinant of fuel sales on an airport? The answer is because of an obsolete view of what an FBO should do.

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Do fuel prices affect hours flown?

Does the price we pay for fuel have a direct influence on how much we operate our airplanes, cars, and boats? According to an article that appeared in the EAA’s November 2011 issue of Sport Aviation (“My $.02 on $6 Avgas”), the price of avgas is less important than one might think.

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