Getting the lead out

I received an e-mail from a gentleman who is a “small investor” in Swift Fuels, a group associated with Purdue University working to produce an unleaded, high-octane aviation fuel that can be made from almost any sugar-containing plant matter.

He asked that I update people on Swift’s progress, as well as took me to task for my past statements questioning some of their figures and conclusions.

First, an update. Swift Fuels has continued to test its product in engines at its facility, at the FAA test lab and at the manufacturers. It also has begun flight evaluations. As I understand it, the fuel has met all of the octane requirements and has performed well in all tests to date. I applaud their efforts and feel that they are doing an excellent job and wish them the best.

I do however have a few problems with the program.

[Read more…]

What oil should you use?

Many pilots want to know what oil to use and where to get it.

To answer these questions accurately, I sent a questionnaire to the four main oil companies that supply lubricants to the general aviation industry. I received nice replies from Shell and Phillips, a note from BP that said the company was changing personnel and that they would get back to me, and an e-mail from Exxon that said that everything is on its website (

[Read more…]

Six tips to cut your flying expenses

Frugal flying may be some sort of oxymoron, but there are a number of things pilots can do to minimize expenses.

The first and foremost is to maintain your engine and keep it on spec. A fouled spark plug or retarded mag timing can increase your fuel consumption significantly.

[Read more…]

A new fuel takes flight

On Dec. 17, 2007, the United States Air Force flew a C-17 Globemaster III from McChord Air Force Base in Washington to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey on a 50/50 blend of synthetic fuel and JP-8, a traditional hydrocarbon jet fuel.

[Read more…]

Own a certified airplane? Just say no to ethanol

In my Nov. 23 column, “”What effect does ethanol have on airplanes?””, I tried to answer the question of what to do if you end up accidentally getting some auto gas that contains ethanol in your airplane. I had intended this to be information for people who tried to use non-ethanol containing auto gas, but unintentionally got fuel with ethanol.

[Read more…]

What effect does ethanol have on airplanes?

“”What is the effect of having mixed 10% ethanol with avgas and/or ethanol-free mogas on two or three occasions?”” asks reader Ken Rice. “”The place where I bought ethanol-free mogas lied to us about the change to 10% ethanol. I only found out about it when I asked the tanker driver.””

[Read more…]