‘Avgas Coalition’ Petitions DOT And FAA To Retain 100LL During Transition Period

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A May 6 letter from stakeholders associated with the 110-plus-member Avgas Coalition, addressed to Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen, implores the powers that be to retain the availability of low-lead 100LL aviation fuel until an orderly transition to unleaded fuel can be accomplished. Among the stakeholders, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) President Mark Baker said, “The need to remove lead from aviation fuel is something everyone is behind. [However] what’s happening at Reid-Hillview Airport in California is having a chilling effect in moving forward with a safe and smart transition.”

Baker was referring to the decision by Santa Clara County in California to ban the sale of 100LL at Reid-Hillview Airport—backed by the theory that Swift Fuels’ UL94 unleaded fuel is available there. According to the coalition letter, “It is our understanding the Department of Transportation, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, is currently in discussions with Santa Clara County officials to resolve longstanding noncompliance issues by the airport. We appreciate these efforts and respectfully request that any agreement include the availability of 100LL fuel at Reid-Hillview during a transition to unleaded fuel. In addition, we ask that the FAA look to expand the list of eligible aircraft approved to use unleaded avgas alternatives currently available at Reid-Hillview.”

The letter continues, “Many of the 200,000 aircraft in the current General Aviation piston fleet require higher-octane fuel to fly safely. Not having 100LL available can lead to the grounding of nearly 30 percent of the entire fleet, which accounts for 70 percent of all General Aviation fuel sales in the United States. Moreover, misfuelling can cause detonation and engine malfunction resulting in catastrophic engine failure, which typically occurs soon after takeoff. For these safety reasons alone, the FAA should apply the full force of its current authority to ensure that Reid-Hillview, and all of our nation’s public-use airports, operate in a non-discriminatory manner while we work together to transition away from lead.”

The letter concludes: “The lack of 100LL fuel at Reid-Hillview has already had a negative impact on humanitarian flights that are now unable to refuel their aircraft at the airport. Moving as quickly as possible to an unleaded future is a top priority, but this transition needs to be done safely and smartly, and without political pressure. Again, as members of the Avgas Coalition, we respectfully request the Administration’s support for ensuring the availability of high-octane fuels at Reid-Hillview, and all of our nation’s public-use airports, while we work together to remove lead from all aviation gasoline.”

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Using my model that the current Administration is at war with the American people (on numerous fronts), I predict that the DOT (and FAA) won’t care about this petition and will continue on their present course, as planned.

      • I expect you are referring to GAMI’s G100UL. GAMI has applied for the STC covering virtually all aircraft engines and is awaiting FAA signatures – a contentious situation.
        Swift Fuel’s 100R is still under development. Its UL94 is approved for many low-compression engines, but unusable on high-compression engines (which power about 30 percent of the GA fleet but burn approximately 70 percent of all the avgas pumped in the U.S.).

      • That is good wording. The expensive GAMI and Swift 100UL SHOULD be considered a “temporary fix until a final replacement fuel is ever found”
        We need to start with some articles from our GA media about how great it could be to have 94UL available at airports, marinas, racetracks, and road locations that currently sell E-free gasoline for a host of uses (like antique cars, generators, etc). We need to refine this product in massive quantities in conjunction with our partners in Europe who have already seen its advantages.

  2. “…we ask that the FAA look to expand the list of eligible aircraft approved to use unleaded avgas alternatives currently available at Reid-Hillview.”

    The list of airplanes that can use alternatives “currently available” is complete. There are no airplanes left to put on that list that are not already there. The FAA cannot simply add to the list, it takes testing, and now – it takes mods. Pilots who have been paying attention for the past – at least ten years have already transitioned either to airplanes capable of using UL91-UL94 or to an airplane with autofuel capability whether or not they had any intention of using autofuel. Mods like water/methanol injection will do it and are available for a few 100 octane engines but not for all. Responsibility for ignoring what’s been happening and keeping what are fast becoming obsolete airplanes rests not with the FAA but with the aircraft owner.

    • Todd, we are so grateful for you attention to this issue that is not new at all. 100 octane fuel will never be refined in quantities that will make it affordable for the flying middle class that we are so blessed to have in this country. Many of this middle class are now flying behind Rotax aircraft engines that avoid the 100LL fuel due to maintenance costs.
      Another bright spot in this mess, is the recent acquisition of Pipistrel by Textron Aviation. The amazing 4-seat Panthera is powered by a fuel-friendly Textron/Lycoming IO-540-V4A5, which could, incidentally, be retrofitted into other Textron products. Lets hope Textron doesn’t mess this up.

  3. It’s all part of the ‘green’ movement and another manifestation of the government’s animosity towards its subjects.

    It’s terminal. Unless there is a major turn of events in the next two elections there will be more of this and I agree any dissent will be ignored or prosecuted. It’s essentially hopeless.

    • James – there are many lists. Lycoming produces a list of engines in Service Instruction No. 1070AB. Textron has an SB in SEB-28-04 that lists dozens of Beech and Cessna aircraft approved for UL91. Many other manufacturers have the same. Even without the list, EASA has a blanket minor change approval that says any aircraft certified to run on 80/87 AVGAS can run on UL91. I sympathise with the niche 100LL users, but the quote “Many of the 200,000 GA aircraft…” is disingenuous, since the vast majority of the 200,000 are already approved for UL91. The issue is economic and supply chain. Most of the UL91 crowd can also burn 100LL instead. None of the 100LL crowd can burn UL91. Hence 100LL satisfies more of the users more of the time – but its days are numbered…

      • While it’s true that approximately 70 percent of the engines operating in the GA fleet are able to run on 94UL, the remaining 30 percent (high-compression engines) that cannot use it are the ones that burn 70 percent of the fuel used in GA – they fly a lot more as well as having a higher fuel flow.

  4. Enough is enough! This lead fuel problem should have be over a decade ago. Just make the drop dead date the end of this year. I am so tired of buying fuel for my Cessna with lead in it just to keep the people happy with planes that should have been modified years ago. I am tired of enduring the extra cost that goes with leaded fuel. This is a total embarrassment for Aviation to have not fix this problem, shame on all of us in aviation.

    • It is embarrassing. Especially with Cirrus being owned by the same company as Continental, who paradoxically claims to have shipped more than 2000 certified Jet-A fueled engines that operate on universally available aviation fuel kerosene. “They are favored by flight schools and specified by major OEMs including Tecnam®, Cessna®, Diamond® , Mooney® , Glasair® , Piper®”. Notice any manufacturer missing from this list??
      Anyone who has been into Scottsdale recently can attest to the huge percentage of 100LL that Cirrus products currently consume.

  5. Can you name me three people with lead poisoning? How about a single person? I know of one person from 30 years ago that worked in a gold assay lab that had elevated Pb in his blood samples.

    Taking Pb out of AVgas is a solution to a non-problem! There are people of the “environmental religion” with not enough to do but sit around and look for possible problems!

    I can guarantee the synthetic fuels will cost $10 or $15/gallon after all said and done. Maybe more! We free Americans want clean air and water but say no to this ridiculous endeavor. Synthesized fuels will never be cheaper than current petroleum products!