Aviation (and other) Observations
The fuel you burn in your airplane is
about to change. Those words, or
some similar, were sprung on pilots over
ten years ago when the big push to get
the lead out of avgas was in its early
stages. Human nature
(procrastination) assisted by the lack of
regulatory incentive, has held up the big
change for over a decade. In fact
it was back in the mid 1980s when
the Environmental Protection Agency
outlawed lead in gasoline. Because
of the specifics in the nature of avgas,
its still around but on borrowed
time. Were all burning
unleaded gas in our vehicles, and now
even less of that, as alcohol/ethanol has
become mandated in many countries. But
in an effort to clean up the environment,
its not a simple matter of changing
the fuel. Automobile engines
had to be re-thought and engineered to
operate without the lead that the old
The designers and manufacturers of
aircraft engines have seen this coming to
our sector, but have more or less been
dragging their feet in the designing
stage of engine building. Theyve
continued with the technology that was
developed in a time before anyone was
concerned with the air-quality issue.
Perhaps the fact that in the big picture,
aircraft contribute such a tiny amount of
pollution into the air, nobody has
pressured us enough to force changes.
Now, governments are cracking down on
avgas, the final holdout still containing
Apparently, the industry has been working
on the problem all this time, just not
hard enough. Alternatives to 100LL
fuel exists, or are in various stages of
development and testing now. A
couple of these are probably already
perfect and just waiting for the official
stamp of approval.
So theres hope
on that front. On the other side of
the equation is the technology of the
engines themselves. While
automotive engine technology has come
a long way, the mainstay in the piston
aircraft engines remains about the same
as it was back in the 1930s and
40s. We now find
ourselves on the verge of losing 100LL
altogether, and for some owners of the
higher performance engines, it means they
could be grounded
. soon. Those
with engines that burn mogas look to be
in good shape.
Did you ever wonder how its
possible that two aircraft can be in the
exact same position, at the same altitude
at the same time? Mid-air
collisions are pretty hard to believe
when there is just so much air up there!
But we all know they happen. The
reality is that airplanes must come down,
and when they do its usually at an
airport. So it shouldnt be
too surprising that at some point in
time, there will be more than one trying
to land at the same spot. Around
airports is usually the area where these
collisions are going to happen.
I dont have trouble understanding
that concept. But Im one who
doesnt have much patience and
waiting in any line is something that I
really prefer not to do. The
reality here is that when I walk up to a
bank machine where I dont see
anyone around, suddenly out of nowhere
another person beats me by one step to
that machine. Then hell tie
it up for five minutes or more with his
business while I have to wait.
The same thing happens when I go for a
haircut. I drive into the lot at
the mall where the barber is located,
hoping hes having a quiet day, jump
out of my car and hurry toward the door
only to be one step behind someone else.
That one step has just cost me close to a
Its no different in a supermarket.
With a small number of items in my cart
heading for the check-out, I always seem
to find myself that one step behind the
woman with a cart thats overflowing
with food and kids. She beats me to
the lineup, and its another 10
Although this next incident
doesnt involve waiting, its a
mystery similar to the mid-air collision
probability. I ride my bicycle on a
circular route near my home.
Its about 15 miles of quiet,
country roads where its rare
to see a car. But Im
beginning to think that a cyclist is a
magnet for all vehicles within several
miles. I can ride for long periods
of time in total peace and quiet, when
not just one, but two vehicles approach
from opposite directions. We
will meet, crammed on to the same narrow
piece of pavement at the same moment.
Its incredible to me that this can
happen so often. Im left
wondering what exactly are the odds?
How do the only two vehicles traveling in
opposite directions on a five-mile
stretch of road meet at the same spot
where a cyclist happens to be?
And its not a rare occurrence.
It must happen about 50% of the time.
What are the real possibilities of that
happening? Maybe someone who is
good with statistics could figure that
one out while I forget about it all for a
while and go flying.