FAA Aims To Eliminate Leaded Aviation Fuel By 2018

April 13, 2016
Two new unleaded aviation fuel formulas, from Swift Fuels and Shell Aviation, have been select for further testing.

Small aircraft are the last of the transportation industry to rely on lead fuel, something the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aims to rectify.  

Two new unleaded aviation fuel formulas, from Swift Fuels and Shell Aviation, have been selected for further testing in an effort to end this reliance. Most commercial aircraft do not use leaded fuel, however approximately 167,000 GA aircraft in the U.S. do, according to an FAA report.   

Phase 2 engine and aircraft testing will begin this summer, as Congress appropriated $7 million from the budget to support the program for the 2016 fiscal year. Testing is expected to conclude in 2018.  

The Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) is facilitating the development and distribution of the new unleaded fuels. 

“Government and industry are successfully working together to lower aviation emissions," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a news release. "We’re on track to have unleaded aviation gasoline fully evaluated and ready to be authorized for use by the general aviation fleet in 2018.”   

The PAFI process began in June 2013, when the FAA requested replacement fuel proposal submissions. By July 2014 the agency received 17 formulations from six companies. Formulations were assessed in terms of impact on the existing fleet and environment, production and distribution infrastructure, toxicology and cost of aircraft operations, according to a FAA news release. By September 2014, the FAA accepted four fuel formulations for Phase 1. 

The current leaded option used worldwide is 100 Low-Lead avgas, which has been proven to contain toxins, cause mechanical wear to aircraft engines and release lead emissions into the environment. The 100 octane low-lead aviation gasoline is currently required for safe operation of high-performance aircraft, according to the FAA.  

"We applaud the thorough testing and evaluation criteria of each Phase of PAFI, as it will undoubtedly help us attain our dream of seeing the day when toxic lead will be permanently removed from avgas in favor of environmentally-friendly, high-performance unleaded fuels," said Swift Fuels CEO Chris D'Acosta in a news release. "It's been the ongoing mission of Swift Fuels to eliminate lead-caused damage to aircraft engines, and to eliminate lead's impact on the environment we live in."