The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft: Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., an expert on autogas and ethanol, and Kent Misegades, Cary, N.C., an aerospace engineer and aviation journalist.
Despite widespread concern over property damage caused by ethanol’s presence in fuels in the U.S., and direct links between ethanol production, rising food prices and unrest in the Middle East, Europe recently approved the use of up to 10% ethanol in automotive fuels. Given the widespread use of Mogas in Europe’s aviation community, EASA, the European Aviation Safety Agency, has issued a renewed warning titled SIB 2007-01R1, “Use of Automotive Gasoline (Mogas) containing Bio-Ethanol”, which can be found here. This EASA Safety Information Bulletin contains the following:
The unauthorised use of fuel containing methanol or ethanol in aircraft can cause the following problems, potentially resulting in engine in-flight shut downs or fires, due to leakages:
- Increased risk for vapour lock due to different volatility.
- Incompatibility with several materials in the fuel system.
- Phase separation into an alcohol-rich aqueous phase and an alcohol-poor hydrocarbon phase when the fuel is cooled (e.g. at high altitude) and not free of water.
- Improper fuel quantity indication, regardless of the quantity of methanol and/ or ethanol, especially when capacitive fuel quantity gauging systems are used.
Given that, in Germany alone, some estimates put the use of Mogas at 50% of the total fuel consumed by piston-engine aircraft, the disappearance of ethanol-free fuel has the potential to seriously affect the safety and cost of General Aviation there as it has in North America.