The first test flight of a piston-engine airplane using a cellulose-based biofuel that is being touted as a replacement for 100LL was successful and “no surprise to the engineering teams who had already completed hundreds of hours of laboratory testing and test cell trials used to simulate various operational conditions,” according to an April 22 news release from Teledyne Continental Motors, Inc.
Continental, in collaboration with Hawker Beechcraft Corporation and Swift Enterprises, described the flight as the “first test flight of a certified aircraft [a Continental-powered Bonanza] using Swift Fuel as the exclusive fuel source.”
“The Swift Fuel test flight occurred just two weeks after TCM successfully flew on 94UL,” stated Rhett Ross, president of Teledyne Continental Motors. “Continental Motors is committed to developing viable alternative fuel sources that are environmentally friendly and economically feasible,” Ross said. “TCM has clearly established a leadership role in the important mission to develop alternative aviation fuels that are affordable, safe and renewable. We’ll continue to leverage our engineering resources and strategic alliances to find a workable alternative to 100LL for piston aircraft operators,” he concluded.
Swift Fuel “shows promise as a viable alternative for 100LL aviation gasoline,” said John Ziulkowski, vice president for renewable fuels at Swift Enterprises. “Unlike ethanol-based fuel alternatives, Swift Fuel contains no ethanol so there is no risk of damage to engine seals and gaskets or fuel bladders,” he stated. “Additionally, Swift Fuel contains no water and absorbs no water so the risk of ice crystals forming at altitude or supporting fuel system clogging microorganisms is mitigated.
“The basis of developing the ideal replacement for 100LL began with a plan to meet the ASTM D-910 specification for fuel by using a non-food renewable resource. Swift AvFuel produces a motor octane over 104 without using any additives or oxygenates. We also project that Swift Fuel will extend aircraft range through increased efficiency and could cost 50% less per gallon to produce than 100LL,” Ziulkowski explained.
“This is another big step in our sustainability initiative and technology leadership at HBC,” said Ed Petkus, Hawker Beechcraft vice president for product development and engineering. “It is also something that will delight general aviation pilots. Working with TCM and Swift Enterprises exemplifies the leadership of our companies and our commitment to supporting the technologies necessary to find an alternative to 100LL. I am confident our customers and the entire aviation industry will benefit from our efforts.”
The demonstration flight, performed by TCM pilot and engineer Phillip Grice and engine performance analyst Tim Kenney, tested all aspects of flight including takeoff, climb, maximum power cruise, low power cruise, descent and landing. The aircraft was specially equipped with an array of recording devices to capture data for post flight analysis.