Saturday, 19 June 2010

Avgas war brewing?

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) will sooner or later kill off leaded avgas. Engine manufacturers and others are running around talking about replacements, alternative fuels and all sorts. Continental has come out in favour of 94UL, while Lycoming has said that the adoption of 94UL as a replacement for 100LL would spell disaster for much of the GA fleet.

Continental itself has admitted that higher compression engines would need changes in order to run 94UL. The vast majority of the new Continental engines over the last few years have been high compression, high horsepower IO-550s of one kind or another, so why are they coming over all evangelical for a fuel that will make many of their engines struggle?

Cynics have suggested that Continental has developed an aftermarket FADEC system that would resolve the issues caused by the lower octane rating for these higher compression engines. Continental has also hinted that their turbocharged engines cope well with 94UL, which is interesting as they showed a FADEC 310hp turbocharged engine fitted to a Cirrus at Oshkosh last year.

There's going to be a lot of shouting and screaming as owners, airframe manufacturers and representative groups get to grips with the prospect of a world without lead.

Cirrus Aircraft has now announced the SR22T, an SR22 fitted with a TCM TIO-550-K turbocharged 315hp engine that is said to be able to run on 94UL. From TCM's point of view, this is a double win - they sell more engines, and their competitors, Tornado Alley will sell fewer. The two aircraft will be sold side-by-side for the same price, it will be interesting to see how the numbers pan out.

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