Embry-Riddle to Test Swift Fuel in Fleet
February 25, 2010 — Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University announced plans this week to phase in lead-free biofuel produced by Swift Enterprises for use in its training aircraft, the nation’s largest (95 aircraft) collegiate fleet. Swift fuel is a renewable biofuel synthesized from sorghum that has been successfully tested by the FAA Technical Center.
Engineers at ERAU’s Eagle Flight Research Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, will begin certification testing in about three weeks that will enable more than 40 Cessna 172s – nearly half the fleet – to operate on Swift fuel, said Richard “Pat” Anderson, associate professor of aerospace engineering, chief investigator in the research project, and director of the Eagle Flight Research Center. He is also president of the International Aerobatic Club Chapter 288.
“We believe this effort by Embry-Riddle and Swift will guide the way to a large-scale switch by the general aviation industry to alternative fuels,” he said. Swift Enterprises is based at the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette, Indiana.
ERAU will also test the fuel on one of its Piper Seminoles, operating one of two engines on Swift fuel at first. Tentative plans are to exhibit that airplane to Oshkosh this year and discuss the Swift-ERAU program, Anderson said.
Anderson estimated the certification testing project to run about two and a half years. They are also partnering with AvFuel to distribute the fuel - about 15,000 gallons per year. ERAU uses about a million gallons of aviation fuel per year, Anderson said.
Small aircraft burn nearly 190 million gallons of aviation fuel annually, contributing 45 percent of all U.S. lead emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Removing lead from aviation fuel has been technically challenging because lead prevents detonation in airplane engines, which have much higher compression than automobile engines. Swift fuel has passed the FAA’s detonation test and gets more miles per gallon than current aviation fuel.
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