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80-octane avgas headed for extinction80-octane avgas headed for extinction

80-octane avgas headed for extinction
AOPA has resources for affected aircraft owners

AOPA members have recently called the AOPA Pilot Information Center (800/USA-AOPA) to investigate rumors that 80-octane aviation fuel is out of production. They're true. AOPA has confirmed that Kern Oil, the last known refiner of 80-octane avgas, has stopped making all aviation gasoline. But aircraft owners aren't "out of gas." AOPA can tell you where to find 80-octane fuel today, and the association is continuing its advocacy for replacement fuels.

"AOPA has committed its resources to the future of aviation, and ensuring a continuing supply of aviation fuel is part of that commitment," said Rob Hackman, AOPA manager of regulatory and certification policy. "We're working on where you can find fuel today, and where you'll find it tomorrow."

AOPA's Airport Directory Online is the first stop for pilots looking for fuel. You can use the "advanced search" function to find airports that still have 80 octane (or any other aviation fuel, including autogas, for that matter). Some 22 airports still have 80-octane avgas at this writing.

Another option for some owners is using automobile gasoline.

But how long will 100LL be with us? The "LL" stands for "low lead," and it is the only fuel using tetra-ethyl lead (TEL) left in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency banned everything else. AOPA successfully lobbied to prevent EPA from banning leaded avgas because there are currently no acceptable alternate fuels or octane boosters that meet the needs of the entire piston-engine fleet.

That situation cannot continue forever. There is only one TEL supplier left. Avgas is a high-cost, low-volume product for refiners, representing less than 0.2 percent of their total output. The few refineries still producing aviation gasoline only devote a few days a year to making batches of avgas. They have to shut down and purge their systems after refining avgas because of the lead. Undoubtedly, some refiners will make a business decision to stop making avgas (as Kern Oil did), and ultimately the government will ban all leaded fuels.

That's why AOPA is supporting FAA and industry research into unleaded aviation gasoline that can safely meet the needs of all current piston engines, including the high-power (more than 250 horsepower), high-compression engines that can self-destruct if fed anything less than 100LL.

For example, AOPA has lobbied successfully for continued funding from Congress for alternative fuels research at both the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and academic institutions.

The association is a member of the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) and the petroleum products committee of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). The CRC is a group of experts from industry, government, and universities directing alternative fuels research. And ASTM will set the standards for any replacement fuel.

"Our goal is to keep existing aircraft flying," said Hackman. "We'll continue our efforts to keep 100LL flowing until a high-octane unleaded alternative can be developed, tested, and approved."

August 11, 2004

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