Aviation Groups Ask For Alternative Fuel Program Funding Increase

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A group of six aviation associations asked Congress to increase funding for the Alternative Fuels for General Aviation program for fiscal year 2022 in a letter to the leadership of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Subcommittee on Tuesday. The program’s focus is “engineering, technical, and management support of fuel research and safety certification activities necessary to identify and secure a fleet-wide authorization approval and deployment of an unleaded aviation gas consistent with aviation safety.” The organizations are calling for raising the program’s funding from the proposed budget request of $4.96 million to $10 million.

“We believe the fuels testing program is at a critical juncture and we request the final conference agreement contain a funding level of $10 million,” the group wrote in the letter (PDF). “The funding level is consistent with the spirit of the recent White House announcement on sustainable aviation fuels, where the work on alternative fuels for general aviation was highlighted. There is still considerable work to be done to address the environmental and regulatory challenges associated with piston aviation fuels and your support is key to addressing them in a way that does not compromise aviation safety.”

The groups cited recent developments such as additional candidate fuels and determining the fleet-wide viability of an unleaded avgas recently granted STC approval as reasons additional funding is needed. Organizations signing the letter included the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Helicopter Association International (HAI), National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).

Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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20 COMMENTS

    • it’s not impossible that lead in fuel will be banned entirely; more probable today than in the previous four years. It could be done in one fell swoop. And even with a couple of years warning, without an alternative, many puddle jumpers will be left stranded.

      • This is not sudden. GA operators have known for 30+ years that they may need to have engines that will run on 93UL aviation fuel (or expensive alternatives). My planes would love 93UL AvGas or better yet 91 non-ethanol MoGas. I say “what crisis”?

  1. We already have fuel.

    It comes out of the ground.

    It is plentiful in the US and Canada.

    No need to waste time and money on this.

    Someday, in the distant future, we will run out of oil as a natural resource but that day is not today or in the near future. We have enough in Anwar alone to supply us for decades.

    • This is about leaded vs unleaded. A Universal replacement of 100LL is to everyone’s advantage. Eventually it should even cost less (lead additives aren’t free). It makes sense for the government to test and certify 100UL across the entire fleet to speed adoption of this and speed discontinuation of a toxic additive.

        • Actually, there is **no** current substitute that will work with higher compression and turbocharged engines. That’s the issue, and those are the “working engines”—commercially used—and burn the vast majority of the fuel.
          Me and my Skyhawk can burn swill, but are a very small part of the problem. Relaxing regs won’t stop harmful detonation.

          • That sums it up; the majority of GA is fine but the small segment of GA that burns the most gas will be hit. Honestly, that’s WHY I dropped AOPA membership. Government and GA groups no longer care about small GA. That’s also why I could care less about 100 octane fuel.

          • Exactly. It’s great that FAA has granted approval for G100UL to run in 600 different engines, but that doesn’t affect the planes that are actually doing most of the flying. George Braly is confident that they will gain approval for the high-compression engines, and it seems likely that he will, given that all of their testing was done in a turbonormalized IO-550N.

    • William… you should get a TV and watch a few documentaries. Good stuff on different forms of pollution that can be stopped by using modern technology. No need to dump a bunch of lead and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Sure it costs money. Oh and there’s a thing called electric power plants for airplanes. Believe it or not, it’s coming your way even though you think it’s ridiculous.

  2. So far, we have 1 STC’d unleaded high-octane fuel that is a drop-in replacement for 100LL (GAMI’s G100UL) that will work for the entire piston fleet, not just a portion. It is now approved for hundreds of engines, with a viable plan for adding the remaining fleet in months, not years. It has all been privately developed and funded. (Innovation on this scale seldom comes from committees, but from visionaries.)

    On the other hand, the government-industry group PAFI has spent a decade and tens of millions of dollars and has not come up with a viable alternative solution. Yet, they ask for more $$$. My understanding is that their hopes are now on replacing lead with another heavy metal additive, manganese, with its own engine-contaminating issues. That’s nuts when there is already a solution that doesn’t spew any heavy metal additives into the engine or atmosphere. And if they can come up with an alternative fuel, it is years from deployment.

    Isn’t there a lesson here? Quit throwing money at a failed program. GAMA, AOPA, EAA need to holster their collective egos and support the rapid deployment of G100UL before the EPA and individual municipalities outlaw the sale of 100LL and create a real emergency for the GA fleet. The politics and money of this stink IMO.

    • I think the money they’re asking for is to do the testing and certification of G100UL in things like the IO550T. To replace 100LL entirely someone has to test the whole fleet. That won’t happen gas organically but can be pushed forward with government funding.

      • I don’t think it’s about doing the testing. GAMI is doing that testing in-house (and according to George the final test the FAA asked for is one that they’ve already essentially done, so they are very confident that it will go well).

        I would love a clearer explanation of what exactly this funding is for, but it may be for things like figuring out distribution, finding a way to issue a blanket fleet-wide approval (rather than having everyone have to buy the STC for a couple of hundred bucks), and so on.

  3. There’s only really 2 solutions I see. Alternative fuel or Alternative engine

    There’s a Corsair Engine company who have created a Flex Fuel Piston General Aviation engine,((google it) to me that makes much more sense than throwing millions at this non-sense which does nothing but drive up our operating costs even more and makes owning a plane again even less desirable for me.

    I sold my plane 2 years ago due to insurance, operating costs, replacement parts (My Cessna was 30years old), I was spending more $ on finding 30year old used parts. It’s not sustainable the whole GA industry is slowly dying right in front of us all due to lack of innovation and rising costs. there’s only one group to blame for it, but they’re also the ones looking to profit off us.

  4. First of all, it is so small you cannot even find the GA/ICE carbon footprint, so looking for alternative environmentally friendly fuels is simply economically and mechanically stupid, even if it is all the political rage these days. That is the coattail those asking for more money are really riding. As others have said, private enterprise has already solved the problem while the government sponsored program is simply perpetuating itself like all other such programs. The feds are seen as a perpetual free money machine by just about everyone, now including the aviation industry. One day you will be using inflated worthless dollars for toilet paper while still wondering why things finally went to hell.

  5. Whether there are any real health effects from GA emissions or not, there is a real threat to 100LL and GA right now, especially in California. One county (Santa Clara) is seeking (through others) to have the EPA make an endangerment finding on 100LL. In addition, they are banning all 100LL sales at two airports (KRHV, E16) come Jan 1 and petitioning to have the FAA allow them to close the airport (RHV) early (based on this purported ‘health crisis’), which is based on a ‘study’.