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June 21, 2006
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New agriculture-based fuel revealed at Delphi Airport
By Jennifer Archibald Staff writer

History made at Delphi Airport Visitors at the Delphi Airport Sunday got to see and hear about a new corn-based aviation fuel. For the first time ever, the public saw an aircraft engine run on the 100 percent renewable-source fuel. Called Swift 142, the fuel is perfectly clear. Jon Ziulkowski of Swift Enterprises is pictured as a first-time test was run, comparing the performance of the new fuel to the standard aviation fuel. Comet photo by Jennifer Archibald
AWest Lafayette company has developed a corn-based alternative aviation fuel, and it chose the Delphi Airport to reveal it to the public.

"To our knowledge, it's the world's first aviation fuel made 100 percent from renewable sources, and it meets all aviation fuel specifications," said Dr. John Rusek, research director for Swift Enterprises, Ltd.

The first public viewing of an aircraft engine running on Swift 142 was Sunday at the airport. The plane is owned by Brian Stirm, manager of the airport.

Stirm, through his company, Oracle Airmotive Research & Development, has been testing the new fuel in his aircraft's 100 HP engine (on the ground).

Aviation visionary Brian Stirm of Delphi, through his company, Oracle Airmotive Research & Development, has been conducting testing of a newly-developed alternative aviation fuel. He has tested the fuel on the engine of his Bakeng Deuce aircraft, based at the Delphi Airport. Stirm is manager of the local airport and is also head of aircraft maintenance at the Purdue University Airport. The company which developed the new fuel is located in Purdue Research Park. Comet photo by Jennifer Archibald
Stirm said Dr. Rusek developed the formula for the biofuel in the lab, but it also needed to be tested to see how it worked in practice.

"My plane (a Bakeng Deuce) was built in a partnership," Stirm said. "I don't fly it much anymore so I volunteered to conduct testing."

"Brian has been instrumental in the testing process," said Jon Ziulkowski, who was the creator of the alternative aviation fuel project and has done the mixing of the components.

Sunday's public demonstration at the airport also included a new comparative test, that had never been done before.

The test compared the performance of the new fuel, called Swift 142, to that of the current aviation fuel, known as 100 low lead. The engine was run on one fuel and then the other, using equal amounts of fuel and for an equal amount of time.

"We found out Sunday that the engine ran five seconds longer with the Swift 142," Ziulkowski said.

"That was calculated to be a 10 percent improvement in efficiency," Stirm added.

Ziulkowski said others have developed ethanol-based aviation fuels, but those fuels contain petroleum and reduce performance.

Stirm pointed out that aircraft engines need to be modified to run on the ethanol-based fuels. He said engines can run on the Swift 142 without modification.

"Two of the Swift 142 components are directly derived from ethanol, but the fuel contains no ethanol and no alcohol," Ziulkowski said.

He added that the fuel contains no petroleum, so dependency on foreign oil companies would be reduced with this renewable-source fuel.

Stirm said one reason this fuel was developed was to find an aviation gas alternative that does not contain lead.

"At some point in time, the EPA will ban lead in aviation fuel," he said. "It's the only type of fuel where lead is still allowed."

"As an industry (aviation), we need to have a replacement fuel before that happens," Stirm said.

A patent is pending on Swift 142.

"This fuel was designed primarily for high performance, piston-powered aircraft," Stirm said. "But it can be reformulated to power other engines."

"Theoretically, our same fuel components have the potential to power jet engines or even automobiles, but those markets aren't being considered at this time," Ziulkowski said.

Rusek said it is the goal of the company to produce three gallons of aviation fuel from a bushel of corn.

Ziulkowski is a senior in the professional pilot program at Purdue University. He said, as a pilot, there are two things he would ask about an alternative aviation fuel: Is it going to cost more than I pay now and will it harm my airplane?

He said the average cost of aviation fuel for general aircraft is now $4.30 a gallon. Based on the company's research, he said the cost of Swift 142 could be as low as $2.25 a gallon. He said testing has shown that it does not have harmful effects on any of the aircraft's components.

Ziulkowski said work on developing the corn-based fuel began about a year ago.

"The last four months we have been trying various mixing of the components to see which produced the best fuel," he said. "We finalized it in the last couple of months, and we have a patent pending."

Ziulkowski said they need funding from the State of Indiana and/or from private investors to start the second phase of the proposal.

"We need $750,000 to ground test the fuel for 500 hours," he said. "The next step is to test for 1500 hours, and that includes flying, with FAA approval."

He said expectations are that the Swift 142 could be purchased in Carroll County in about two years.

Both Ziulkowski and Rusek were at the airport Sunday to conduct the testing and answer questions. They said they wanted to make the public aware of what they are doing and get their support.

Despite rainy, windy weather for the airport Fly-In/Drive-In on Sunday, more than 75 persons attended throughout the morning.

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