Airworthy AutoGas prepares for takeoff

Mark Ellery doesn’t understand why aircraft owners “want to purchase fuel at a higher cost” than what he pays for the autogas that fuels his Citabria.

“What I don’t understand is, given the imminent demise of 100LL, and given that autogas is suitable for use, and has been approved for use for over 30 years now, why on earth is all of the focus on identifying and certifying one fuel, 100UL, which, at the end of the day, really only serves 20% of the GA fleet? That sounds like the tail wagging the dog to me.”

“I am a member of the 80% of the GA fleet that doesn’t want 100 octane, doesn’t need 100 octane, and doesn’t want to get stuck having to pay for 100 UL that, trust me, if and when one ever does get ‘certified,’ will end up costing more than today’s 100LL,” he continued. “The solution to the 100LL problem is complicated, and 100UL, in and of itself, is not the answer. Airworthy AutoGas will be an affordable alternative for 80% of the GA fleet, at less cost to the pilot. Airworthy AutoGas also is not the solution — it is part of the solution.”

A pilot and chemist who is the force behind Airworthy AutoGas, he admits he’s frustrated. He’s actually had FBO owners slam doors in his face.

And during a flight to this year’s AirVenture in a Piper Archer fueled by Airworthy AutoGas Premium 93 Unleaded, when faced with having to ship drums of the fuel to four airports, “not one FBO helped,” he said.

But that didn’t stop Ellery — at least not this time.

About six years ago, Ellery’s father-in-law, Roy McCaldin, a B-17 commander during World War II who regularly burned autogas in his personal aircraft, took him to Ryan Airfield in Tucson to meet with the airport manager, to discuss autogas.

“To make a long story short, he said that the airport manager wouldn’t allow it on the airport,” Ellery said. “That took the wind out of my sails, and I decided that if I was going to get that kind of response, then why bother?”

He shelved the idea for five years, then decided it was time to move forward with it. He began tinkering in the lab and came up with his patent pending formulation that meets the D4814 spec.

“In order to get approved in as many engines as possible, I decided that it not only needed to meet the D4814 spec, but it also had to meet Lycoming SI 1070,” he said.

Of course, it also had to make economic sense. He had to convince his employers, who also own a very large motor fuel terminaling facility in Phoenix that supplies a large portion of the fuel in the region — including 100LL — that it was worthwhile to go into this new business.

Airworthy AutoGas Facility“Aviation is such a tiny little segment of the market,” he said. “We had to downshift to get into this little — but important — business.”

He crunched the numbers and although it was a “tough sell,” was able to show “there is money to be made,” he said. “I demonstrated that we could make a living — not a killing — but the whole angle is to drive the cost of flying down.”

The company’s owners agreed and set up a separate company, Airworthy Autogas, LLC, which is set to begin production on Oct. 28, with a capacity to produce 500,000 gallons a month.

He said he’s talking with a lot of different entities, but can’t reveal, just yet, who.

Airworthy AutoGas Load RackHe does admit he hasn’t “sold a gallon,” but anticipates that his initial clients will be flight schools, and that they will get this business “off of the ground.”

He realizes that there is a lot of educating to be done to get Airworthy AutoGas into airports and flight schools, but he is willing to keep his nose to the grindstone until it catches on. As the producer and wholesaler, he can’t set the retail price, but does say that Airworthy AutoGas will be “substantially” cheaper than 100LL.

“I’m plugging away here with the idea of eventually serving North America with Airworthy AutoGas,” he said. “I’m in it for the long haul. I burn autogas in my own plane. It’s a better fuel for many aircraft than 100LL.”

What about your plane?

Experimental and homebuilt aircraft can use Airworthy AutoGas without an STC. Aircraft certified for any other avgas must get an STC for autogas.

Ellery reports that work is underway with manufacturers to TC airframes.

“Lycoming has pretty much approved 93 UL in most of their engines, so it really is up to the airframers to take it from here,” he concluded.

For more information:

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