EAGLE Leadership Posts Unleaded Avgas Update After Meeting With Stakeholders

30

Leaders of the “industry/government EAGLE initiative” publicly released the group’s June 23 “Joint Industry/FAA Statement” to stakeholders and interested parties this morning. EAGLE (Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions) reported that stakeholders included “a wide range of more than 100 aviation associations, aircraft and fuel manufacturers, federal and local government bodies, airport officials, pilot groups, environmental organizations, and other related constituents.”

The EAGLE objective is defined as “bringing all parties together to discuss and rally around the shared goal of an unleaded aviation future.” The update reported that the group has made progress in several of its priority areas, such as fuel testing, evaluation, authorization, research, development and implementation, as well as “regulatory and policy activities.”

Mark Baker, president and CEO of AOPA, and EAGLE co-chair, reiterated that, while eliminating lead from aviation fuel remains “the biggest opportunity we have in general aviation … it’s also vital that 100LL be available for those aircraft that require the fuel to operate safely during a smart transition. While we are working together to remove all lead from aviation fuel, this needs to be done smartly and safely.” 

Also an EAGLE co-chair, Lirio Liu, the FAA’s executive director of Aircraft Certification Service, said, “It is going to take a sustained level of commitment to tackle the highly complex set of issues at play here. The spirit of partnership that is key to EAGLE’s success was evident during our discussions today, and I am excited to be a part of it.” Liu, a 31-year FAA employee, was appointed to her current role in April, succeeding Earl Lawrence, who subsequently left the FAA this month to become chief compliance and quality officer at autonomous-flight-tech company XWing.

While the group reported it has “addressed a number of potential unleaded fuel candidates,” EAGLE leadership and specifically the FAA have faced pushback for lack of progress on the Supplemental Type Certification (STC) process for G100UL, a potential drop-in replacement fuel developed by General Aviation Modifications Inc. (GAMI). George Braly, GAMI founder, has been vocal in his displeasure over FAA inaction on the pending STC, which would effectively constitute a virtually fleetwide approval for all GA aircraft.

But some stakeholders in the debate have questioned whether the STC process is the prudent and appropriate process for such a sweeping approval.

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.

Other AVwebflash Articles

30 COMMENTS

  1. If the FAA questions whether the STC process is appropriate for approving an unleaded fuel (demonstrating regulatory compliance), that should have been known 12 years ago. That the FAA has approved project certification plans from UL avgas applicants, assigned resources to the projects for years, conducted review boards ad nauseum, is proof that this is not the case. Actually, we have a consensus group trying to rewrite FAA policy so that a majority, comprised of those who have failed to come up with a solution, can control the narrative and the outcome… the opposite of free market competition.

    If GAMI, Swift, or anyone else earns an STC, then the FAA is legally obligated to issue it, period. What happens after that with bringing a product to production and distribution is the STC holder’s risk and responsibility. Having the STC is no endorsement or guarantee of success. But there is a MUCH bigger picture here.

    If the FAA does not follow its own rules and policy, then the certification of any complex innovation is now at risk. Aerospace companies make their business plans for new products based on their estimates of development and certification costs. If, at the end of the project, the FAA can announce the convening of a Technical Review Board (supposed to happen at the beginning of a project BTW) to change the scope of certification, this will further stifle innovation and is a existential threat to all of general aviation. The current, out-of-control situation is now much bigger than GAMI or avgas. It is fundamentally important to the industry and anyone who flies anything. But like the frog in the pot, everyone seems blissfully unconcerned. I is incredible that Textron, Cirrus, Piper, etc. are not screaming.

    • Unfortunately, the FAA doesn’t have to do anything. There is absolutely nothing in US law that states that the FAA has to issue certification if a manufacturer meets a set standard. That is actually one of the issues is that in a lot of cases there isn’t a set standard it is up to the discretion of the FAA authority. What this has resulted in is a situation were getting certified is more a matter of knowing people in the bureaucracy or having political pull. The older small manufacturers know people withing the bureaucracy and don’t make radical changes. The larger ones like Boeing just have to call their senators and the FAA administrator gets a call. The small companies’ like GAMI are just toast unless their innovation doesn’t affect anyone’s bottom line. Welcome to US government regulatory agencies in the 21st century.

      • I would say there appears to be a lot of speculation in what you guys are saying. If you want to understand the STC process a little better take a look at Order 8110.4C. I think you will find chapter 4 addresses the assumptions you make about the process. You can get to the order by going to: DRS.FAA.gov

  2. The problem with Mogas is that they won’t let me use it. Years ago, I bought a Mogas STC for my Warrior and a half-dozen steel jerry cans to take gas to my airplane. Still have the cans in my garage. This worked well for years, though a bit inconvenient. Then airport commissions and FBOs realized they were losing revenue. They’ve erected all sorts of restrictions, expensive “safety” regulations, and “flowage” fees to put a stop to self-fueling. The handful of airports that list mogas in the airport directory may turn out to not to actually have mogas when you land (or hopefully will tell you when you call ahead). If government was actually concerned about lead pollution, they’d embrace mogas. Lead pollutes the inside of my engine as well.

    Fuel is a major profit center for airports. I expect that’s why 100LL is almost twice the price at the big airport than the small-town airport, to pay for all those “air carrier” features that I’ll never use. Money is also why they want to standardize on only one grade, “One fuel to run them all.” Equipping with tanks and pumps for each type of fuel is expensive. I know the airport has expenses, but so do I. Can’t we find a solution that satisfies everyone?

    • No the problem with MOGAS is it’s not a solution. We need a fleetwide solution, the two 100 unleaded fuels waiting for the STC. MOGAS is not a solution for many engines, and MOGAS has additives (ethanol) in many states that are not good for engines. While I agree with you that you should be able to use MOGAS in you engine if you want, and the airport should not get involved, let’s not confuse the two issues, MOGAS is not the solution for a fleetwide 100LL replacement.

    • Ethanol-free mogas might be a solution for many of us, although it’s an inconsistent formulation and that’s not totally reassuring. The big problem, though, is the ethanol: my plane is explicitly approved for mogas that is ethanol-free. My state, however, will not allow the sale of ethanol-free mogas. Thanks, Big Agriculture. Love ya.
      100LL is a “last resort” fuel for my airplane (per the POH). And yet, it’s what I’m stuck with.
      I don’t need a fleetwide solution, and I’m not altogether thrilled about the additives that are being used to get to 100 octane without lead. UL 94 would work best for me. But, airports won’t carry it.

      • Also check near a significant lake. In Metro Atlanta, the closer you get to Lake Lanier the more stations sell no-ethanol gas. I buy if for my power equipment (it’s recommended by the manufacturer).

      • In some states (MN) ethanol free higher octane mogas is abundant. I am fortunate in that I am based in southern IN and frequently travel to northern MN. The local FBO carries mogas alcohol free, and I have an ancient pickup with a DoT certified transfer tank to pick up ETOH pump gas 91 octane in MN. I also test the fuel before I pump. I have found both airport and pump mogas with ETOH from time to time. The test is easy. A capped glass test tube with a 25 ml mark filled with water, a 50 ml mark topped with the gas in question, cap, shake and wait. If the water level changes, there’s ethanol. Alcohol preferably absorbs water.

        As for the use of 100LL the O470, hates it and it fouls lower plugs requiring a 50 hour plug cleaning and rotation.

        As for multiple tanks at airports, we had 100LL, 100/130 and 80 fuels at my old based airport in the 1970s. 100/130 went away in the mid ’70s and by ’90 80 went away leaving us with 100LL. So, why is having multigrade fuels an issue today?

        When EAGLE was announced many of us had just the concerns expressed here. What do we need yet another FAA committee for without a guarantee that it will work any better than the old committee? I agree that the continuous alteration of the regulatory requirements does jeopardize GA and safety equipment upgrades.

    • I doubt the big airport gets much demand for avgas/mogas, perhaps some if there is an area used by smaller airplanes.

      (For example, YVR ‘south terminal’ hosts smaller airplanes up through 30pax airliners, probably dispensed by truck especially since amphibious seaplanes are common, might even be able to refuel them by truck hose from the dike road between river terminal seaplane parking and land area where seaplanes are maintained.

      (Amphibians can taxi across the dike, but often are trundled across by a modified road vehicle that has a lifting apparatus that bears on bottom of crossbars between floats.)

      YVR will be handy to business people, but most small airplanes will use Boundary Bay which hosts the big flying club, and much further out Pitt Meadows and Langley.

      Similarly Springbank west of Calgary rather than YYC.

      Alas, Edmonton Industrial was closed by city bleeps – was very busy with business airplanes, hopefully others nearby (Wetaskiwin is to the SE, big transportation museums). Military does not want to give up NAMAEO even though they only use it for helicopters.

      Seattle has Boeing Field in the south end of the city – which also handles a mix of turbines and piston aircraft, used to have a small airfield in an industrial area of NW Kent, and Renton airport which has a mix as Boeing’s narrow body factory is there.)

  3. Ethanol-free mogas is not the ideal fuel as it stands currently. Regulations vary by locality, and in some locations mogas can have a Reid Vapor Pressure that’s twice as high as AvGas. This can lead to vapor lock – ask me how I know. Now, if mogas were to be regulated nationally to have an RVP in line with AvGas, that would go a long way. That would work for many engines, but the larger, higher horsepower engines still need more octane. Agree with you on the ethanol, though.

  4. The environmental and health impacts of leaded avgas is actually one of the least important reasons for switching to an unleaded fuel.

    Leaded fuel fouls spark plugs and contaminates oil (which is why we have to change oil every 50 hours). TEL is also manufactured by only one company, so we run the risk of them deciding it’s not worth it to produce it any more, or they may decide to significantly increase the price of it. Removing lead could lead to (pun intended) longer intervals between oil and spark plug changes, and the reintroduction of synthetic oils to further prolong engine life.

  5. I was taught (a long time ago…) that when you have a controversy (and why should there be one about this subject?) the first question to ask is “cui bono?” (who benefits/to whose good)

    In this case, with all the bureaucratic machinations and committee meetings, it certainly is not the majority of the GA small aircraft owners. There are embedded interests (the three letter agencies: FAA, EPA, etc), the lobby groups (AOPA, EAA, GAMA, etc), the fuel companies (pick your favorite whipping boy), GAMI (who seems to have stolen a march on the three groups), and WAY down in the pecking order…those of us that fly the piston pounders that could benefit from the STC, but are the ones who pay the freight (today, at my local field, $8.37 a gallon for 100LL).

    So again, who benefits? In a capitalist society…the consumer’s choice is limited by what the layers above are willing to commit to. There is an enormous investment on the part of the groups above in the infrastructure to support the status quo, regardless of the downstream incremental improvements (let’s face it, ‘lead’ is a handy thing to hang a regulatory hat on) and fragile supply chain (one factory in the UK producing an extremely hazardous additive). But, it IS in place and, all things being equal, the costs to convert are not insignificant.

    Add to that the bureaucratic overlay and tendency of any bureaucracy to resist any risk until the evidence is so overwhelming that to not make a decision can not be justified by any reasonable standard or parsing of finely-tuned press releases.

    That it’s 2022, unleaded fuels have been available since the 1970s in varying qualities, the chemistry is well understood, as are the combustion qualities, MOGAS is used (in various guises) successfully under existing STCs, and now, we have a composition that is stable enough, demonstrated as usable in the majority of our piston aircraft (there will be outliers, but even that can be solved as experience is gained…the petroleum chemists are not stupid people!) and we’re STILL having committees, reviews, position papers, etc. to talk about something like this is nothing more than stalling until those for whom the answer to the question “cui bono” can be satisfied.

    It took an act of Congress to circumvent the FAA medical establishment to allow what we’ve all known for decades that allowing PCPs to accurately judge whether we’re medically fit to act as pilots (albeit for private privileges)…it will probably take the same to push back on the inertia here. But, in this case, they’ll be pushing back not only on the bureaucracy, but moneyed interests to maintain the status quo (and revenue streams) as long as possible.

      • Perhaps you’ve heard the term “regulatory capture,” Gary? It’s the accusation that a regulatory agency is “controlled” by the industry it’s supposed to regulate. EAGLE might be the opposite; call it “advocacy capture,” when an industry advocate is neutered by fear of losing access to regulatory agency leaders. I mentioned this phenomenon in an article in a small aviation magazine last year. Unfortunately the edited version failed to make the point. Here’s how the pertinent part of the manuscript put it:
        “All of the national civil aviation organizations in the United States that tout their prowess in advocacy of which I am aware have offices in or near Washington DC, including the handful headquartered far away. This is not an accident.
        “Advocacy organizations use these offices as launching points for their leadership and staff to build relationships with decision makers in federal agencies, on Capital Hill, and in the White House. Based on the relationships this proximity enables, leaders and key staff of these organizations obtain access. In this context, access means that government officials return an organization’s phone calls, and the organization’s leaders and staff are invited to attend meetings and serve on committees. When national organizations host meetings between government officials and the organizations’ members, they are showing off their access.
        “I must now burst a bubble. In my 25 years of experience in both a national civil aviation advocacy organization and a federal civil aviation regulatory agency, it has been my consistent observation across multiple agencies involving countless issues and regulatory actions that comments by individuals are read at least as carefully as, and generally carry more weight than, comments submitted by national organizations. The government employees who do this work instinctively feel that individuals write because they care, while national organizations write because they’re paid to. Of course, content matters; as we’ve discussed in previous installments of this series, comments that provide good data, clear explanations, and solid justifications are more influential than others regardless of authorship. The determining factor, however, is quality, not access.
        “Moreover, reliance on access for an edge weakens many national organizations’ advocacy efforts. Maintaining cordial relationships with government decision makers and staff — let’s rephrase that: staying liked by government people — means never crossing them too hard.
        “And so we return to the lesson taught by my first professional mentor long ago: A strong desire to be liked corrodes one’s commitments to truth, goals, fidelity to principles, and loyalty to persons not in the room. Sometimes it is necessary to make a point very clearly, to go over someone’s head, or to take a problem public, despite the fact that someone in power may be offended or embarrassed.
        “The emperor almost certainly will be embarrassed to be told he’s naked. The problem for national organizations is that an emperor you have embarrassed will probably stop taking your phone calls.”

      • AOPA used to represent the average Airplane Owner and Pilots. They fought mandatory transponders when airlines thought they could force us out of “their” airspace. They fought ELTs when airlines had no requirement to also carry them. etc etc.
        Not anymore. AOPA endorsed mandatory ADS-B. They endorsed shutting down Loran instead of VORs. The endorse every new gadget mfr’s can produce whether the membership wants it or not. They sell “insurance” that is sub-par. They sell product for advertisers. They’ve forgotten who they claim to represent.
        WHY are ELTs still required when it’s proven that 406 is just as defective as 121.5/243 was…?…especially since cell phone technology locates more downed aircraft than elts..?..and since any ADSB broadcast which suddenly stops anywhere but at a landing facility can be located within 15 feet? AOPA is the new NRA. They represent mfr’s…not pilots and owners.

  6. Total mumbo jumbo. Veiled claims that users have any say in the matter are a complete joke. Nothing new. It’s how our system works. A friend of mine flies out of a local glider field. The owners imported and tried to operate a brand new winch launch vehicle, drivable, air conditioned, beautiful machine. Ran on unleaded auto fuel. California environmental police shut it down because the engine wasn’t tested to California’s emission standards. So, instead, tow planes continued to be used for every flight, all burning 100LL, creating noise over the surrounding area, etc. No discussion. No chance of a common sense exemption. Again, the user has no voice.

  7. If Gami has an STC why is the snail disease afflicting policy? Sorry but I can’t but think that too many people got their hands in the pot. They all smell government money and they all want to carry this on and on…
    Not sure if there is a fix to this greed & ego….. We jut need to vote right.

    Lets vote the rascals out and get new blood in there that actually cares for the people Us!.

    • I’ve been thinking that a third party is needed in the US, but there are inherent problems with new and third political parties in our system. I keep coming back to having an anti incumbent movement. Raise some money, do some advertising, print some voters guides, etc.

      The message is simple: “Are you really fed up with government? Fire the people in charge! Please read our voters guide, and only vote for new people to lead our country.”

      Of course, any new bunch will likely take a while to get around to the FAA, but what else can we do?

    • If the Supreme Court rules in West Virginia v. EPA is favorable to limiting the abiility of executive branch agencies to make it up as they go, instead of Congress defining the law, we may have hope.

      This silliness extends to the present autopilot certification issues with new avionics suppliers who might bring the cost of a $2,000 autopilot down to well, $2,000. But that would end a market for buying up old autopilot companies, stagnating the market and selling them for $20,000. But I have been called an optimist.

  8. Everybody in the light A/C community should understand by now that the various regulatory agencies, two of the last three administrations, and big air have wanted to eliminate GA for several years. GA is too hard to control, too much freedom, too private, too polluting, a fossil fuel hog, unnecessary, elitist etc. I could go on and on with reasons to make GA disappear, and this latest one regarding fuel seems to have current traction. The powers in control want to eliminate all fossil fuel using devices and this is a good way to strangle GA, and the FAA is the perfect tool. Please do not try to apply reason, common sense or pragmatism to this issue.

  9. My comment is directed to Mark Phelps:

    Mark, you and the the AvWeb team usually help bring out facts from a morass of confusion that smacks of personal ideas, theories, “it is reported that…”, or other inaccurate information. A quick read of these people’s comments should indicate the confusion here.

    On the face of it we recognize the boundless frustration shared by so many caring, responsible pilots – a hunger for facts. May I suggest that AvWeb interview Paul Millner, George Braly, and Chris d’Acosta in separate articles and identify the facts. If you filter out the political/financial comments, the above comments reflect efforts by earnest seekers of the “truth”, and yet each comment is laced with some level of misinformation.

    For example, mogas approved for use in aircraft has not, does not, and will never contain any ethanol. Just read the STC for mogas (Petersson STC). That does not mean mogas is right for aircraft – think beyond octane ratings to RVP, fuel stability, BTU’s, etc.! There is real hunger here for facts and you have a unique opportunity to help satisfy this hunger.

    And Mark, I suggest you latch onto this opportunity before Paul B. beats you to it!

    • RE: “…the above comments reflect efforts by earnest seekers of the “truth”, and yet each comment is laced with some level of misinformation.”

      It’s hard for people not to get frustrated with the quest for “truth” on this issue. And in this dark age of “enlightened” social media, we’re all admonished that if we’re not pissed off at someone, REALLY pissed off, then we just don’t care enough. References to accurate, objective information seem to be optional, at best. Further, it can be tempting to make a strong case in one direction or another that conveniently turns a blind eye to someone else’s legitimate (or not) “yeah, but what about______?”
      All that said, a series of conversations with the lead-free trinity you mention could be a giant step forward. We just need to figure out who’s going to bell that cat on a hot tin roof. I vote for Paul!

  10. Mark,
    I read AvWeb precisely because of the efforts made by the staff (including Paul B.) to glean “…accurate, objective information…”, sometimes from the social media weeds. As pilots, we are part of a higher calling. It is so because we choose that for ourselves. We train for it. We recognize it in others. We cherish it.

    That higher calling is manifested in our willingness to act responsibly as we take known risks. It is manifest in our understanding of the importance of communication and the role of factual information in establishing the basis for that communication. And it is manifest in our ability to accept and fulfill leadership roles.

    AvWeb is fulfilling a leadership role in presenting facts in our aviation world and distinguishing between facts and opinions. In these times, perhaps the only impossible task is separating or filtering out the political innuendo that seems to permeate every platform. As adults, we can ignore the innuendo. But the only way to extinguish the false or inaccurate presentations is with facts. And when the facts presented come under attack, stick with the facts.

    But the bottom line is: somebody needs to put the facts out there. Nothing against Mr. Bertorelli, but why would a J-3 Captain even care about high octane unleaded avgas? My vote is with you to drive our Streetcar Named Desire.