The Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions (EAGLE) team announced today (Nov. 29) that the first high-octane unleaded aviation fuel has reached an FAA milestone. According to an FAA announcement today, the agency “has approved the advancement to full-scale engine and flight testing of unleaded UL100E aviation fuel for piston-engine aircraft developed by LyondellBasell Industries/VP Racing. The UL100E fuel successfully passed a 150-hour engine durability test under the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI), a collaborative industry/government testing program. LyondellBessell/VP Racing UL100E is the first unleaded fuel to pass the PAFI 150-hour durability test phase.”
Lyondell/Basell is an international petroleum processing company with refineries in Germany, the Netherlands, and four in Texas. VP Racing specializes in competition racing fuels, including supplying high-octane fuel for competitors in the Unlimited Class at the Reno Air Races.
The next phase of PAFI testing involves full-scale engine and airframe testing and is expected to last 12 to 18 months. Controversy throughout the general aviation community swirls around the difference between the PAFI ASTM pathway to fleetwide approval versus the Supplemental Type Certification (STC) route chosen by the General Aviation Modification Inc. (GAMI) for its G100UL product.
According to the EAGLE statement, the PAFI process “rigorously tests candidate fuels through various phases including evaluation of toxicology and environmental considerations, material capability, engine durability and detonation, and aircraft performance and operability.” The purpose of the trials is to help develop an industry consensus ASTM international production specification, leading to an FAA-generated fleet authorization for the fuel. “The goal of PAFI is to test, not produce, fuels that can ensure both capability and safety within the piston-engine aircraft fleet as well as commercial viability for deployment,” according to the EAGLE statement. It is noteworthy that EAGLE cites the factor of “commercial viability for deployment” in its statement.
Curt Castagna, EAGLE co-chair and president of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), which represents a wide range of general aviation industry stakeholders, said, “The LyondellBasell/VP Racing achievement marks an important waypoint on the path to a more environmentally friendly future for aviation fuel and demonstrates the progress made through our government and community partnership. EAGLE celebrates this milestone and looks forward to more opportunities to recognize industry ingenuity and innovation.” Castagna’s EAGLE co-chair, FAA Executive Director of Aircraft Certification Service Lirio Liu, added, “This is another important milestone for a safe General Aviation transition to unleaded fuel and for our goal to eliminate lead emissions by the end of 2030.”