The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced last week it has selected four unleaded fuels for the first phase of testing at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center. The goal is for government and industry to work together to have a new unleaded fuel that reduces lead emissions for general aviation by 2018.
Aviation association leaders have each recognized this move as an important milestone in the search for a replacement of leaded aviation fuel. Shell and TOTAL, with one fuel each, and Swift Fuels, with two fuels, will now work with the FAA on phase-one testing, which will begin this fall and conclude in fall 2015.
“We’re committed to removing harmful lead from general aviation fuel,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This work will benefit the environment and provide a safe and available fuel for our general aviation community.”
In July, fuel producers submitted their replacement fuel proposals to the FAA for further evaluation as part of the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI), an industry-government initiative designed to help the general aviation industry transition to an unleaded aviation gasoline. The FAA assessed candidate fuels in terms of their impact on the existing fleet, the production and distribution infrastructure, the impact on the environment, toxicology, and the cost of aircraft operations.
“The FAA looks forward to our continued work with fuel producers to make an unleaded aviation gasoline available for the general aviation fleet,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
Based on the results of the phase-one laboratory and rig testing, the FAA anticipates that two or three fuels will be selected for phase-two engine and aircraft testing. That testing will generate standardized qualification and certification data for candidate fuels, along with property and performance data. That entire testing process is expected to conclude in 2018.
“This is an important milestone in the search for a replacement for leaded avgas,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We appreciate the collaborative efforts of everyone involved to keep the process moving forward while ensuring the needs of the aviation community are considered at every step along the way.”
“GAMA is pleased that the FAA has taken this important step forward as it continues to evaluate possible unleaded avgas replacement fuels for development and deployment,” GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said. “A successful transition to unleaded avgas is critical for ensuring the continued safety of the piston-engine fleet, providing environmental benefits, and reducing the economic impact of a transition on our industry. We appreciate the strong support of the U.S. Congress and the FAA, which have been key to moving this effort forward.”
Approximately 167,000 general aviation aircraft in the United States rely on 100 low-lead aviation gasoline for safe operation. Low-lead is the only remaining transportation fuel in the United States that contains lead, which is considered a toxic substance. The small quantity of lead in the fuel creates the very high octane levels needed for high-performance aircraft. Most commercial airplanes do not use leaded gas.
“This is another important milestone in the collaborative effort between the aviation community, fuel producers, and the FAA to find future replacements for 100 low-lead fuel for GA aircraft,” said Jack Pelton, EAA’s chairman of the board. “We all have a single goal: finding the best possible outcome for the widest spectrum of the GA fleet. EAA stands ready to continue its active participation in this important initiative.”
PAFI is facilitating the development and deployment of a new unleaded aviation gasoline that will have the least impact on existing piston-engine aircraft. PAFI will play a key role in the testing and deployment of an unleaded fuel across the existing general aviation fleet. Congress authorized $6 million for the fiscal year 2014 budget to support the PAFI test program at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center.
For more information go to http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/avgas/