Embry-Riddle to Test Biofuel in Bid to Fly First ‘Green Fleet’

Three decades after the Clean Air Act banned leaded gas in cars, more than 200,000 general aviation aircraft still burn leaded fuel, which has been cited as a public health hazard. But that is about to change, as momentum builds to find lead-free fuel alternatives for general aviation aircraft.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is leading the change with a plan to phase in lead-free renewable fuel in its training aircraft, the nation’s largest collegiate fleet. The university is partnering with Swift Enterprises, developer of a biofuel that has been tested by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Technical Center with promising results.

“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,” said Richard “Pat” Anderson, associate professor of aerospace engineering and chief investigator in the research project.

Engineers in the Eagle Flight Research Center, a laboratory in the College of Engineering at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach, Fla., campus, will perform the certification testing needed to enable more than 40 Cessna 172s, nearly half of the university’s fleet of 93 aircraft, to use Swift fuel. Anderson is the research center’s director.

When the changeover is complete, Embry-Riddle will be the first large aviation organization to move to unleaded, renewable aviation fuel.

Small aircraft, which burn nearly 190 million gallons of aviation fuel a year, contribute 45 percent of the lead emissions in the nation’s air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Removing lead from airplane fuel has been technically challenging, because lead prevents detonation in airplane engines, which have much higher compression than car engines.

Embry-Riddle chose to partner with Swift Enterprises because the company’s non-leaded fuel has passed the FAA’s detonation test and gets more miles per gallon than current aviation fuel. The fuel can be synthesized from sorghum, a renewable biomass source.

To learn more about Embry-Riddle’s plan to transform its training aircraft into a “green fleet,” contact Pat Anderson at richard.anderson@erau.edu or (386) 226-6917.

For more about Swift Enterprises, go to www.swiftenterprises.net/Swift%20Fuel.html.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, offers more than 30 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business, and Engineering. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Prescott, Ariz., and Daytona Beach, Fla., through the Worldwide Campus at more than 170 campus centers in the United States, Europe, Canada, and the Middle East, and through online learning. For more information, visit www.embryriddle.edu.

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