Aviat Aircraft of Afton, Wyo., and Minneapolis-based Aviation Foundation of America introduced a dual fuel, piston-powered aircraft that operates on either compressed natural gas (CNG) or aviation gasoline (avgas) this week at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. The proof-of-concept aircraft fuel system is installed on a standard Aviat Husky A1-C fitted with a CNG belly tank.
The General Aviation Avgas Coalition, which includes NBAA and GAMA, praised the FAA’s announcement to formally request sample unleaded fuels for testing as possible replacements for 100LL aviation gasoline.
Viking Aircraft Engines of Edgewater, Fla. (Booth N-068), is displaying its Viking 110 on display at Sun ’n Fun 2013, and was offering Firewall Forward kitting for the Van’s Aircraft RV-12. The 110-hp (at 5800 rpm, with 2.33:1 gear reduction turning the prop at 2500 rpm) dedicated aircraft engine is based on the Honda 1.5-liter engine. This liquid-cooled powerplant includes electronic ignition and multi-port fuel injection. It weighs 178 pounds, dry, and can burn 92 octane mogas (up to 10 percent ethanol) or 100LL.
Robinson Helicopter revealed its intention to obtain approval to operate its R44 and R22 piston-engine helicopters on unleaded fuel this week at Heli-Expo. According to Robinson CEO Kurt Robinson, engine maker Lycoming needs to obtain FAA approval to burn unleaded fuels in its engines while Robinson must perform airframe testing with the fuels on board for each of its relevant helicopter models.
A day after revealing its intention to obtain approval to operate its R44 and R22 piston engine helicopters on unleaded fuel (see article on page 10), Robinson Helicopter (Booth No. C23) shared its strategy for doing so. CEO Kurt Robinson and engineering vice president Pete Riedl spelled out the steps required and the technical issues involved.
As the cost of jet-A creeps ever upwards, the price last month at several Washington, D.C.-area airport FBOs hovered near $9 per gallon. Signature Flight Support, the lone provider at Reagan National Airport, posted a pump price of $9.18 a gallon, which was still less than the $9.24 per gallon it listed in early March 2011.
Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) achieved a milestone in the quest for adoption of biofuels when it made the first flight by a civil jet powered by 100-percent unblended biofuel. At the end of October, the NRC’s Dassault Falcon 20 made the historic flight over Ottawa, burning a new biofuel known as ReadiJet, derived from Brassica carinata, an inedible oilseed crop provided by feedstock producer Agrisoma Biosciences.
The aviation industry is slowly headed toward development of an unleaded replacement fuel for avgas-burning piston-powered aircraft, and a recent move by the FAA is an encouraging sign that progress will continue. The FAA recently agreed to open a new Fuels Program Office, according to NATA, that will provide “technical expertise and strategic direction in the planning, management and coordination of activities related to aviation fuels.”
Thirteen aviation groups, including NBAA and GAMA, are firmly supporting continued research by the Department of Defense on the use of biofuels after the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to strip funding for those efforts. By a 13-12 vote last month, Senate committee members are blocking Defense participation in programs to construct biofuel refineries and have prohibited the Pentagon from purchasing renewable biofuels that are more expensive than regular jet fuel.
Delta Air Lines plans to manage the volatile cost of jet fuel by getting into the oil refining business, an airline industry first. On April 30 the carrier said its wholly owned Monroe Energy subsidiary will acquire a refinery complex southwest of Philadelphia from Houston-based Phillips 66 for $180 million.
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