Age 85 Blog

Project Description

This project began in July, 1996. The purpose of the project was to develop a fuel based on ethanol that could serve as a viable replacement for 100LL aviation gasoline. The South Dakota Corn Utilization Council provided funding to South Dakota State University (SDSU) to pursue this goal. SDSU was able to acquire, through federal surplus property, a 1962 Cessna 180 to serve as the prototype aircraft for the project. As can be seen from the timeline below, a comprehensive flight test program was undertaken with this aircraft and STC's were obtained to certify C-180's and C-182's on this fuel.

Project Milestones

  • July, 1996 - Project Begins
  • August, 1996 - Acquire Cessna 180
  • January, 1997 - Team w/ TX Skyways
  • June, 1997 – December, 1998 – C-180 Flight testing.
  • April, 1999 - FAA STC's Obtained 
  • September, 1999 - Mooney 201 Acquired
  • December, 1999 - Grumman Ag Cat Acquired
  • December, 2002 – Ethanol Task Force formed
  • April, 2004 – Ag Cat engine and airframe rebuilt
  • January 2005 – Piper Seneca 1 Acquired
  • February 2005 – Mechanic Dave Quale Hired

Following this success, the project has expanded to include to additional aircraft. A 1982 Mooney 201 was acquired to begin work on certification of Lycoming engines, Secondly, a Grumman Ag Cat is in the process of conversion to provide an alternative fuel to the aerial applicator community. Rig Testing of ethanol with fuel systems and fuel pumps is currently in the final stages of testing with Rig Test 4 ending this fall. The Piper Seneca will be used to enhance testing through side by side comparisons of fuels. The Seneca will also be used for detonation testing in the fall of 2005. 

Several individuals and institutions are involved with this project. Together, they provide the wide range of expertise needed to develop a fuel for use in all piston aircraft. 

Involved Institutions:

  • South Dakota State University
  • Great Planes Fuel Development, Inc.
  • Texas Skyways
  • Engineering & Environmental Research Center @ University of North Dakota
  • Tulsa Aircraft Engines
  • FAA Technical Center

South Dakota State University

SDSU has the lead role in development of ethanol fuels for aviation. SDSU specializes in the flight testing of AGE with an emphasis in detonation and fuel efficiency testing. SDSU has also been instrumental in specification development for AGE.

Great Planes Fuels Development

The role of this start up company is to develop AGE-85 into a viable commercial product for use in the aviation industry. In addition, the company has been working to develop automotive applications, and ethanol fuels for diesel applications. 

Texas Skyways

Texas Skyways was incorporated to provide high performance engines for aircraft. They specialize in engine modifications for Cessna single engine models from the C-180 through the C-210. With vast experience in engine modification, Texas Skyways has provided significant input in the conversion of aircraft engines to AGE-85. Their home page is

Engineering & Environmental Research Center

This organization has provided valuable information on the development of AGE-85. As a DOE research laboratory, they have vast experience in energy related research. The EERC specializes in materials testing and fuel formulation. More information can be found at

This project has received significant support from many organizations within the aviation industry. A few of these are listed below. We deeply appreciate their interest and contribution to this project.

Industrial Supporters:

  • Conoco-Phillips
  • Lycoming
  • Airflow Performance
  • Floats and Fuel Cells
  • Experimental Aircraft Association
  • Consolidated Fuel Systems
  • Precision Airmotive
  • Champion
  • Alcor
  • Koch Refining
  • Cenex
  • Spicer Axles
  • Nopec
  • Heartland Grain Fuels

Lastly, this project would not be possible without the generous support form our funding sources. Working with these organizations has been one of the highlights of the project!

Funding Sources:

  • South Dakota Corn Utilization Council
  • Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion
  • Western Regional Biomass Energy Program
  • Federal Aviation Administration