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45 MPG at 207 MPH: Fuelventure 400

A competition for the most fuel efficient aircraft on the planet

By Pat Panzera

E-Racer
Bruce Vinnola seen moving his E-Racer MK II from the scales.

E-Racer eight
Official weight of Vinnola’s E-Racer, without occupants.

RV-8
John Huff’s RV-8, competitor in the Fuelventure 400 competition at Copperstate.

October 29, 2009 — On Saturday, October 24, Bruce Vinnola successfully completed the second of what will most likely be an annual event at the Copperstate Regional Fly-In, the Fuelventure 400. As the organizer, his workday started at noon on Friday, where each entrant’s plane was weighed in and impounded until 7 a.m. the following morning, when the 400-mile efficiency run began.

The concept is simple: Who can fly the route using the least amount of fuel? Each plane is weighed as ballasted for the flight. At the end of the flight, the planes are weighed again and the difference in weight is calculated to be fuel burn.

But it’s not that simple. Overall fuel burn is calculated and awarded accordingly but numbers are crunched that also factor weight, number of souls on board and speed. Can one effectively compare a single-place, 1,100-pound, 120-mph plane against a four-place, 2,400 pound, 200-mph aircraft? The answer is yes if you use the CAFÉ Foundation’s equations, which is what was done in this case, as a second award.

Three weight classes- 1,103 lbs or less (500kg), 1,104 to 1,654 lbs (501-750kg), and 1,655 to 2,204 lbs (751 to 1,000kg), all of which are required to average a minimum of 120 mph or greater. (Weights are “as flown” calculated from the weigh-in.)

The course for the event was: Casa Grande (KCGZ)to the Yuma VOR (KBZA), to Blythe (KBLH) and then land at Phoenix Regional Airport (A39).

“The winds aloft were not favorable as last year so some of the numbers are not as impressive for this year. However, they are still impressive,” Bruce told us.
 
Klaus Savier with his modified Vari-EZ and its really modified Continental O-200 engine took top honors for MPG and CAFÉ score again this year: 45 MPG @ 207 mph with two people on board. Gary and Char Spencer’s Long-EZ (powered by an all-aluminum Ford small block engine) won 2nd best overall MPG, but Gary flew solo, and slow, so his CAFÉ score suffered.

Fuelventure organizer and participant Bruce Vinnola carried a Young Eagle during his trek around the course in his E-Racer MK II, but since his passenger was small his potential CAFÉ score could have been higher. Bruce had the second highest MPG rating of the four planes in his weight class, but had the lowest CAFÉ score. He was beat out by three Lancairs.
 
“Gary Hertzler and Burrall Sanders scratched due to last minute airplane problems, otherwise, they could have flown home with some honors.” Bruce said. 14 planes total participated this year.
 
The 1,103 pound (or less) weight class was void of participants, saving the $600 in prize monies for the next event. I can think of several dozen aircraft that could have done very well in that class. Oh well, maybe next year...

Look for complete results at www.fuelventure.org.

 
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