In February, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced an initiative outlining steps to eliminate the use of leaded aviation fuel by 2030 without negatively affecting the existing piston engine fleet.
According to a press release announcing the initiative, Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions (EAGLE) will be based on four pillars of action that involve the FAA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fuel suppliers and distributors, airports, engine and aircraft manufacturers, research institutions, associations, environmental experts, communities and other key stakeholders.
The search for effective unleaded fuels has taken place for more than a decade. The Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) has tested a number of fuels. Supplemental Type Certificates (STC) have also been used to develop unleaded fuels, including Swift’s UL94 and General Aviation Manufacturer Incorporated’s (GAMI) 100 octane fuel. These fuels are in use for low compression engines, but a solution is still being sought for high compression engines that make up a majority of general aviation aircraft.
EAGLE’s four pillars of action include developing unleaded fuels infrastructure and assessing commercial viability; supporting research and development and technology innovations; continuing to evaluate and authorize safe unleaded fuels; and establishing necessary policies.
Certainly, much thought and planning will be required to incorporate many perspectives on this topic. That’s evident by the number of associations involved, including the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Helicopter Association International (HAI), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and American Petroleum Institute (API).
As it pertains to ground support for general aviation, the need for infrastructure to supply unleaded fuels is the pillar that will have the greatest impact.
For example, and FBO or municipal airport may have to consider whether to put in another tank so it can offer 94UL fuel or (another alternative) or wait until an unleaded fuel is identified by EAGLE and certified so existing tanks can be converted to handling the new fuel.
“There are a lot of communities and a lot of FBOs that are very concerned because that’s not a cheap proposition,” said Pete Bunce, GAMA president and CEO, during a AOPA-hosted webinar.
President and CEO of AOPA Mark Baker agreed, noting a drop-in fuel is the best solution for most existing infrastructure at airports.
“Our real intent here is to have a fleet-wide acceptable fuel that’s drop-in because the scale of economics around most general aviation airports, you can’t have three tanks and make your choices,” he said during the webinar. “I also believe there’s a high risk of safety if we don’t have communication about what’s an appropriate fuel for your airplane.”
To assist with the communication aspect, the Avgas Coalition, a broad group of organizations “aligned on a smart and safe transition to unleaded aviation fuel,” has been established and now has more than 100 members. Baker encouraged anyone involved in general aviation and piston aircraft to join the coalition to stay up to date with the latest developments concerning unleaded avgas.
More information about EAGLE and the Avgas Coalition can be found at www.aopa.org/100ul.
With the urgency established by the 2030 deadline, more ingenuity and developments pertaining to unleaded avgas can be expected. We’ll continue to report on the topic at AviationPros.com. I also welcome your thoughts and considerations on the topic. Reach out to me at jsmith@AviationPros.com.