FAA Launches Initiative To Eliminate General Aviation Lead Emissions

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The FAA has announced the launch of a new initiative designed to eliminate the use of leaded aviation fuel “without adversely affecting the existing piston-engine fleet” by the end of 2030. The Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions (EAGLE) initiative outlines four “pillars of action” to be tackled by government and industry stakeholders. The pillars include developing unleaded fuel infrastructure and assessing commercial viability, supporting research and development and technology innovations and continuing to evaluate and authorize safe unleaded fuels. The final pillar covers the establishment of necessary policies, with the FAA referencing the EPA’s ongoing evaluation of whether emissions from piston-engine aircraft burning leaded fuel contribute to air pollution that endangers public health. The FAA stated that if the EPA issues regulations on lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft, a decision slated for final action in 2023, it will roll out “regulations that certify piston engine modifications, new piston engines that do not require leaded aviation fuel, and regulate fuel components for aviation fuels.”

“This is a safe and practical path to a lead-free aviation system,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “We look forward to starting a new partnership with aviation stakeholders and the communities that hosts airports to achieve this important goal.”

According to the FAA, EAGLE banks on involvement from itself, the Environmental Protection Agency, fuel suppliers and distributors, airports, engine and aircraft manufacturers, research institutions, associations, environmental experts, communities and other industry stakeholders. Groups such as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), American Petroleum Institute (API), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Helicopter Association International (HAI), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) have announced their commitments to the initiative. The FAA says EAGLE is part of its ongoing effort to build a sustainable aviation system alongside the Aviation Climate Action Plan released last November and $100 million in matching grants aimed at increasing aircraft efficiency, reducing noise and aircraft emissions and developing and implementing software designed to reduce taxi delays. The agency further noted that the EAGLE pillars “leverage and build upon a continuing collaboration with industry through the Piston Aviation Fuel Initiative [PAFI].”

More information about the EAGLE initiative can be found at

https://www.faa.gov/newsroom/faa-industry-chart-path-eliminate-lead-emissions-general-aviation-end-2030

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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15 COMMENTS

  1. Is this supposed to essentially replace PAFI? With GAMI and Swift already moving forward with their unleaded fuel replacement STCs, it seems all that’s left for the FAA is to make regulatory changes to convert these to drop-in fuels. Which, I guess if it will take then “4 years” to fix their own problem of training in experimentals, it makes sense it will take them 8 years to fix the fuel regulations…

  2. It’s not a pressing issue… so let’s spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a program that already has viable solutions.
    They need to make a new Federal agency for it: Aircraft Social Services Healthy Aircraft Technology. At least the acronym would make sense.

  3. One of their initiatives is to evaluate and authorize “safe leaded fuels”? Huh? Considering that the EPA, NIOSH and the AGCIH have said there is no acceptable level of lead exposure to humans, especially children, why are they even bothering with this? Also, I’m not very good at predicting the future, but I predict that leaded avgas will be a distant memory by 2030. And, if they don’t figure out how to make more affordable piston aircraft, GA will be a distant memory by then as well. By 2030 the average age of a GA airplane will probably be around 55 years, and most of the currently active pilots will be gone or at least no longer flying. This whole thing looks like an attempt by the FAA to appear they are doing something just to keep pilots and the alphabet groups off their back.

    • Does the average age of the fleet track that way? I’m pretty sure the average is greatly affected by losses. At some point, won’t we start seeing a big drop off of life limit hulls from the fleet even if we don’t start seeing some big STC’s that cost us a lot of planes? Has the FAA started working on regulations covering printed parts? Is that scheduled for after thousands of planes with rare engines are already scrapped?

  4. After three decades of the FAA blocking the private sectors development of a drop in replacement fuel, now their going to take credit for these replacement fuels. The FAA created programs that credited themselves with GPS integration. In the mean time, congress has to make Aviation regulations for LSA, BasicMed, Pilot Bill of Rights and other pro pilot rules.

  5. Some of the BEST COMMENTS I’VE READ ON AVWEB!

    Great observation by Klaus–“FAA blocking the private sector”, and “CONGRESS doing the job of the FAA”!

    In the military and in management, the good department heads set policy, and let their people implement it. Instead, the FAA engages in “Paralysis by Analysis”–is it any wonder they are so universally mocked?

    It reminds me of the old military saying–“We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing.”

    FAA–SET THE PARAMETERS–ARRIVE AT A CONSENSUS–GET OUT OF THE WAY–AND WRITE THE ENSUING LAW! (and by the way, get it done in no more than 6 months!).

  6. Given the FAA’s history of missing every target date for anything regulatory, why would anyone believe they will get it done by 2030? With the current zero risk regulatory environment (on their part/CYA), we can expect delay after delay. Waiting for 100% certainty on every piston aircraft ever built (the FAA standard) means never getting anything fixed.

    If they were really interested in fixing the problem, they should fund an industry consortium (AOPA, AAAE, API, EAA, GAMA, HAI, NATA, NBAA, and interested fuel suppliers) that has skin in the game for getting the problem fixed by X-date.

    The FAA could fix it pretty quick by issuing a blanket regulation allowing GAMI and SWIFT fuel use in all certificated aircraft at the appropriate octane rating, eliminating the current STC process. This is a basic supply and demand problem that could be solved quickly if the demand constraint is removed. I expect GAMI and AVFUEL will deliver a solution by force of will vs. FAA regulators.

  7. Would someone PLEASE, PLEASE PLEASE cut through the male bovine defecation and explain why noE premium mogas won’t work for the GA fleet? If you need more octane, there’s stuff for that available.

    I firmly believe there’s a simple – cost effective solution, available now, without spending billions scratching our collective derriere.

    It took the auto industry about 2 years to figure it out, once catalytic convertors were required by law. All they did was make the valves and seats of a harder metal. WHY is it ANY different for aircraft engines?

    Oh sorry, the law says… Therefore we can’t do it…

    • Pump 93 generally has a MON of 88 vs 100LL at 100. 12 octane points is a lot to make up for with an octane booster product. There’s a reason performance car tuners don’t usually just run octane booster in pump gas on race day but instead use race gas or E85. I would be surprised if any GA engines currently in use don’t have hardened valve seats, maybe some old classics don’t, but hardened valve seats weren’t exactly cutting edge tech even when they were introduced in cars. As for the octane requirement itself GA engines have a staggeringly low specific output for the octane requirement and it’s down mostly to one thing; they’re air cooled so CHT is much higher than a water cooled auto engine.

  8. Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t the FAA been hamstringing efforts to offer unleaded fuel for many years now? FAA action being what it has been lately, I’m inclined to think this and compliance to it will be handled in the most onerous and expensive way possible and will wind up further shrinking GA.