House R&D bill would continue unleaded-fuel research

March 18, 2011

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has sent to the full House a bill containing language to authorize FAA research on an unleaded aviation fuel.

The bill reauthorizing FAA research and development calls for continuing R&D activities “into the qualification of an unleaded aviation fuel and safe transition to this fuel for the fleet of piston engine aircraft.” It would require the FAA administrator to develop a plan for carrying out the policy within 120 days of the bill’s passage, and for the FAA to report to the committee within 270 days on the program’s progress.

The R&D reauthorization measure, HR 970, directs the FAA to collaborate with industry groups representing aviation consumers, manufacturers, fuel producers and distributors, and other federal agencies. The legislation was introduced March 9 by committee Chairman Ralph M. Hall (R-Texas), and will be incorporated into the FAA reauthorization bill, HR 658, that was approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last month. The Senate passed an FAA reauthorization bill on Feb. 17. Funds would still have to be provided through an appropriations bill.

“This is an important issue to our members, and we appreciate the wisdom of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee in including a provision to authorize the FAA to conduct research and development of an unleaded aviation fuel for piston aircraft,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA Vice President of Legislative Affairs. “This issue received added traction when our House GA Caucus Co-Chairs, Congressman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Congressman John Barrow (D-Ga.), circulated a letter encouraging the inclusion of the provision."

On Jan. 31, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt signed a charter establishing an aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) to advise the FAA on the transition to an unleaded avgas. AOPA described the creation of the ARC as “a vital step” in the process of moving forward on an unleaded fuel for the piston aircraft fleet.