A consulting firm that specializes in helping the FAA and NASA manage research programs has joined the effort to develop an unleaded fuel for the general aviation fleet by 2018.
Crown Consulting of Arlington, Virginia, will be responsible for conducting laboratory, rig, engine, and aircraft testing under a five-year contract "to assist the agency’s Aviation Fuel and Engine Test Facility (AFETF) at the William J. Hughes FAA Technical Center," the company said in a Sept. 26 announcement. Under the contract, Crown Consulting will support the FAA research facility’s execution and oversight of testing during two phases of the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI).
Crown said it will bring "recent advances in aviation fuel test protocols" to the fuel-evaluation process, and give the FAA lab access to "cutting edge expertise in Fuel Property and Material Compatibility, Engine and Aircraft Testing, and Fuel Toxicology."
AOPA reported Sept. 8 that the FAA had selected four fuels through the PAFI process to undergo initial testing as potential replacements for leaded avgas. Two of the fuels were developed by Swift Fuels, and one each developed by Shell and TOTAL. Congress has funded the research program with $6 million for fiscal 2014, and both the House and Senate appropriations panels have recommended similar funding levels for fiscal 2015.
AOPA and the FAA serve on the PAFI steering group along with the American Petroleum Institute, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the National Air Transportation Association, and the National Business Aviation Association.
Phase 1 laboratory and rig (component) testing will begin this fall and continue through fall 2015. Then the FAA will select two or three fuels for continued testing in engines and aircraft, over about two years. Phase 2 will generate engine and aircraft test data to produce an ASTM production specification for the fuels, and to approve most of the existing fleet to operate on one or more of the fuels.
There are an estimated 167,000 aircraft in the United States and a total of 230,000 worldwide that rely primarily on leaded avgas for safe operation.
"This work is exciting and meaningful for us in many ways," said Crown Consulting President Charlie Keegan. "Not only do we look forward to helping AFETF in facing the scientific challenges ahead, but welcome the opportunity to contribute to the GA’s transition to environmentally sustainable operations."
Describing its business services on its website, Crown Consulting states that "our business roots are in aviation, where, as a small business with the technical infrastructure of a large company, we assist the Federal Aviation Administration and National Aeronautics and Space Administration in crafting system concepts, planning and evaluating modernization programs, and managing program implementation."