September 26, 2013
By Elizabeth A Tennyson
For now, leaded avgas is vital to keeping America’s general aviation fleet flying, but government and industry are working together to find a safe and effective alternative, AOPA told California lawmakers at a Sept. 18 hearing.
State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) led the hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Air Quality, which was investigating the effects of leaded avgas on pollution.
In extensive written and verbal testimony, AOPA discussed the technical challenges associated with finding one or more viable alternatives to leaded avgas and noted that, through ongoing industry efforts, today’s avgas contains 50 percent less lead than it did in the past.
While that is a marked improvement, the need for a lead-free solution is universally accepted. Through the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI), the aviation and petroleum industries are working with FAA to identify candidate unleaded aviation gasolines, provide for the generation of data on those potential replacements, and facilitate fleet-wide certification of the fuels. In keeping with FAA timetables, the group hopes to find one or more acceptable replacement fuels by 2018.
“PAFI goes well beyond the aircraft operational aspects to understand and address the environmental and toxicological impacts of candidate unleaded fuels so we don’t wind up with a solution that creates a worse environmental impact,” explained AOPA Western Pacific Regional Manager John Pfeifer in remarks to the panel. “Additionally, a solution must be found that is economically feasible and allows for production and distribution across the nation.”
Pfeifer noted that the search has gained momentum since June when the FAA issued a request for fuel developers to submit candidate unleaded fuels for evaluation.
He added that, given the technical challenges associated with finding an unleaded fuel, it is vital that lawmakers support government-industry efforts.
“If you want to help ensure the development and implementation of a solution as soon as possible, we encourage you to work with members of the California State Legislature and the state’s congressional delegation to ensure the FAA has the funding needed,” Pfeifer said.
The FAA’s proposed 2014 budget includes $5.6 million for independent assessment and testing of unleaded avgas.
AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
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