We are now well into 2017, so I thought I would review all of the significant advancements in the world of general aviation future fuels, especially the development of an unleaded 100 octane avgas.
But there were none.
We have had a lot of talk about the candidate fuels, testing, new specification, etc. We have also seen the engine manufacturers make small adjustments so their engines can maybe run on mogas or unleaded sub 100 octane unleaded fuel.
As always, no one talks about the elephant in the room. If a 100 octane unleaded fuel is ever introduced into the GA market, it will face a huge liability exposure from knocking complaints, which may lead to engine damage, exhaust valve recession claims, plus many other lawsuits.
But who will they sue?
The oil company that supplies the fuel will claim that it meets the new spec. The engine manufacturers will claim the FAA research said that it was safe. And it will go round and round — the lawyers will make money and GA will die a little more.
I have received numerous questions asking how the research into unleaded fuels hurts general aviation.
Well, it hurts the industry as a whole because instead of working on updating their engines to at least 1960’s technology, the engine manufacturers are playing with these fuels. They could be working on electronic fuel injection, electronic ignition, liquid cooling and many other technology advancements that the rest of the world has been using for almost 50 years.
So what is going to happen in the future?
There is a possibility that the new administration will look at the whole unleaded avgas thing and conclude it is just a complete waste of time and pull the plug on the funding. This would leave a bunch of companies holding the bag and no place to go.
However GA is such a small market, and it would not affect many people, so it would not generate any big headlines. So, the administration may not bother with it.
The other big effect that GA may note from the change in administration is the availability of mogas without ethanol. This is going to be a real crapshoot.
If the new administration looks at the big ethanol picture, it would cut all government subsidies and let ethanol fight it out in the marketplace. But that may not happen because this would hurt the Big Ag business community. And no politician wants to bite the hand that feeds them. I am guessing that not much will happen.
So what will change for GA in 2017? Not much, and I will probably recycle this column in 2018.