December 28, 2010
By Dan Namowitz
The effort to switch the general aviation fleet to a lead-free fuel is a marathon, not a sprint, AOPA is reminding pilots and aircraft owners. And, the association encourages pilots to keep in mind the project’s overarching threefold mission.
First, the effort must ensure that a continuous supply of the existing aviation fuel is available, assuring the utility of the piston-engine fleet. Second, a process must be established that, working with the FAA, develops and implements a comprehensive program to facilitate the qualification of an unleaded avgas replacement for 100LL. Finally, a timeline must be established that allows adequate time for transitioning to an unleaded solution.
AOPA will champion members’ interests in all phases of this ambitious undertaking—protecting existing fuel supplies, and making sure that a solution works for the industry and provides aviation with a fuel for the future.
The process will be deliberate and steady, not rushed, AOPA emphasizes, so that it will produce a well-vetted solution. All parties—AOPA, industry organizations, aircraft engine manufacturers, and the Environmental Protection Agency—must agree on the solution. The solution must work at every level: at the refinery, for distributors, for fixed-base operators, and of course for aircraft owners and pilots. And, it must address environmental, economic, and safety-of-flight concerns. Moving forward in haste poses risks that some of these crucial concerns will not get the attention they require.
Only after a solution that the EPA’s Glenn Passavant referred to as a “viable way forward” is pinpointed will the agency move toward a recommendation and a timeline for the process. After that, the FAA would be obligated to take action.
A look ahead
Although many pilots are just learning that momentum is gathering for this fundamental shift to an unleaded fuel, AOPA has long been engaged—working with the FAA, communicating with the EPA, connecting with researchers wherever they are doing their crucial work, and participating in industry efforts—to find a solution that will work across the board.
A tall order—but not one to be approached in haste.
In 2011, AOPA will intensify its outreach to pilots, explaining how fuel supplies will be secured in the short and the long term. The association also will work to help pilots find the information their specific needs require for future planning.
Next: Defining the Challenge>>
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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