February 2, 2011 — Making good on a request from EAA, other aviation groups, and petroleum organizations, the FAA has chartered a joint government/industry committee to define the process by which research can be coordinated and an unleaded avgas performance specification can be developed. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt signed a charter this week establishing an aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) to advise the agency on moving toward an unleaded piston aviation fuel specification.
The Unleaded Avgas Transition ARC charter was created in response to a July 2010 request by the General Aviation (GA) Avgas Coalition for the FAA to take on the leadership role for developing and deploying an unleaded avgas. Along with EAA, the Coalition is comprised of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the American Petroleum Institute (API), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA).
“This is a significant step in the process toward an unleaded future for general aviation,” said Doug Macnair, EAA vice president of government relations. “We have consistently urged that all concerned parties needed to come together in a coordinated fashion under a federal umbrella including both the FAA and the Environmental Protection Agency, who have a shared role in regulating aircraft emissions, fuel, and safety. Twenty years of work has shown us that no single entity can solve the high-octane unleaded avgas issue in a vacuum.”
The ARC’s charge is defining the process and framework to guide research, testing, certification, and development of market data, allowing the entire GA community to arrive at the best possible outcome, Macnair added.
The FAA recognizes the significance of the issue, both to the aviation industry and to the larger economy. “Impending environmental regulation, along with production and distribution issues, threaten the continued availability of leaded avgas,” the charter reads. “Various elements of the GA community have voiced their concerns with the potential consequences of a disruption of the supply of lead-containing avgas. This would have significant economic consequences that would impact a large number of people.”
EAA and other aviation organizations – with help from FAA staff - have devoted more than 20 years of significant effort to seeking an acceptable alternative to 100 low lead aviation gasoline. “But this is the first time that the full weight of the federal government has been brought to bear on the issue,” Macnair noted. “While there is a long road ahead, we are pleased that all the right players will be brought together in a focused manner to bring their significant talents and resources to bear on the problem.”
EAA and other coalition members will also be ARC members, along with additional participants from academia, the petroleum industry, engine and airframe manufacturers, and other organizations conducting research on unleaded aviation fuels. The ARC will be co-chaired by representatives from the industry and the FAA. The charter stipulates a six-month term for the ARC, with an optional six-month extension.