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Aviation Gasoline - History & Development

The history of aviation gasoline, usually referred to as avgas, is as old as the history of powered flight. The earliest gasoline powered engines for aircraft were essentially identical to those used in automobiles or motorcycles. The fuel for these engines was naturally occurring, straight-run gasoline produced simply by distilling crude oils. As the both automobile and aircraft engines developed, the requirements for suitable fuels also developed. The needs of automobile and aircraft engines, while similar, diverged in many areas. The years of World War Two saw avgas reach its peak of development. Many grades of increasingly higher octane were formulated. World War Two also saw the development of gas turbine engines for use in aircraft. The advent of these jet engines froze the further development of aviation gasolines While large amounts are and will be consumed, further development of the fuel is unlikely. Avgas is one of the most complex, rigidly controlled products produced by oil refiners. A great number of physical and chemical properties must be controlled in order to produce a very consistent fuel. While specifications are quite detailed, they also contain a suitability requirement. This eliminates the possibility that some product that meets the "specs" but is not adequate for use in aircraft could be marketed. Refiners are forced to consider whether their product actually meets the intent of the specification not just the test results. Specification for avgas are by necessity quite tight. Unlike other common forms of transportation, occupant safety in avaiation is directly related to continuous power production. Thus, the fuel is a safety critical item and demands care and attrition in its manufacture, distribution and storage. The various specifications have produced excellent quality fuels that perform well in a wide range of environments and applications.

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