The search for viable replacements to leaded avgas is moving to the next stage as the FAA prepares to begin evaluating fuels submitted for testing through the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI). July 1 marked the deadline for candidate fuels to be submitted into this program.
The FAA received ten replacement fuel proposals from the world’s fuel producers, including submissions from Afton Chemical Company, Avgas LLC, Shell, Swift Fuels, and a consortium made up of BP, TOTAL and Hjelmco.
“Aviation organizations, the petroleum industry and the FAA are working collaboratively to ensure the aviation community will have access to unleaded fuel that meets performance and safety standards, is affordable and can be used by the existing fleet with minimal disruption,” said Mark Baker, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). “We are pleased with the progress so far and look forward to the next phase.”
PAFI is a joint industry-government effort to facilitate the development and deployment of a new unleaded avgas that will meet the needs of the existing piston-engine aircraft fleet. In addition to AOPA and the FAA, the PAFI Steering Group includes the American Petroleum Institute, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the National Air Transportation Association and the National Business Aviation Association.
With the window for submissions closed, the FAA will now begin assessing the viability of the candidate fuels using the data packages provided during the submission process. The FAA will evaluate the proposals in terms of impact on the existing fleet, production and distribution infrastructure, environment, toxicological effects, and availability to consumers in terms of cost of aircraft operations.
The most promising fuels will be selected to participate in laboratory testing led by the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center beginning in September. Fuel developers will each be asked to supply 100 gallons of fuel for phase one testing. Fuels that are determined to be potentially viable replacements in this evaluation will move to phase two, which is comprised of full-scale engine and aircraft testing. This will require 10,000 gallons of fuel from each developer and will generate standardized property and performance data necessary to demonstrate scalability of production, and support qualification and fleet-wide certification data.
Congress fully supports this multi-year program to facilitate development and deployment of a new unleaded replacement avgas by 2018. Six million dollars was provided to this program for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014. Additionally, both the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees have proposed funding another six million in FY 2015 for the program, which is $300,000 above President Obama’s request.
There are approximately 167,000 aircraft in the United States and a total of 230,000 worldwide that primarily rely on the currently available 100 low-lead avgas for safe operation. It is the only remaining transportation fuel in the United States that contains added tetraethyl lead (TEL) needed to create the very high octane levels required by high-performance aircraft engines. Operations with inadequate octane can result in engine failures.
Since 1939, AOPA has protected the freedom to fly for thousands of pilots, aircraft owners and aviation enthusiasts. AOPA is the world’s largest aviation member association, with representatives based in Frederick, Md., Washington, D.C., and seven regions across the United States. AOPA provides member services that range from advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels to legal services, flight planning products, safety programs and award-winning media. To learn more, visit www.aopa.org.