An octane identifies aviation gasoline, or AVGAS, or performance number (grade), which designates the antiknock value or knock resistance of the fuel mixture in the engine cylinder. The higher the grade of gasoline, the more pressure the fuel can withstand without detonating. Lower grades of fuel are used in lower-compression engines because these fuels ignite at a lower temperature. Higher grades are used in higher-compression engines, because they must ignite at higher temperatures, but not prematurely. If the proper grade of fuel is not available, use the next higher grade as a substitute. Never use a lower grade. This can cause the cylinder head temperature and engine oil temperature to exceed their normal operating range, which may result in detonation.
Several grades of aviation fuel are available. Care must be exercised to ensure that the correct aviation grade is being used for the specific type of engine. The proper fuel grade is stated in the AFM or POH, on placards in the cockpit, and next to the filler caps. Due to its lead content, auto gas should NEVER be used in aircraft engines unless the aircraft has been modified with a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The current method to identify aviation gasoline for aircraft with reciprocating engines is by the octane and performance number, along with the abbreviation AVGAS. These aircraft use AVGAS 80, 100, and 100LL. Although AVGAS 100LL performs the same as grade 100, the "LL" indicates it has a low lead content.
Fuel for aircraft with turbine engines is classified as JET A, JET A-1, and JET B. Jet fuel is basically kerosene and has a distinctive kerosene smell.
Since use of the correct fuel is critical, dyes are added to help identify the type and grade of fuel.
In addition to the color of the fuel itself, the color-coding system extends to decals and various airport fuels handling equipment. For example, all aviation gasoline is identified by name, using white letters on a red background. In contrast, white letters on a black background identifies turbine fuels.