Every day across the United States and around the world general aviation airplanes are at work helping society. You know the missions—many of you participate in them: Firefighting, moving food and critical medical supplies, transporting patients, shuttling equipment and parts to keep a factory going, flying sales people efficiently around a large territory while spurring economic activity. But how often do we think about the role that GA plays in the environment? How many millions of acres of forests don’t burn—and pollute the air—because of the firefighting capabilities of GA airplanes? GA aircraft allow logging in steep terrain without damaging nearby trees or scarring the surface. Environmental groups rely on GA aircraft to help assess environmentally sensitive areas and spot those violating pollution regulations.
Our aircraft support environmental causes, although they also face environmental challenges. GA airplanes emit a minuscule amount of air pollution, but the lead in avgas is under constant scrutiny as the industry scrambles to find alternatives. Weight limitations make it difficult to muffle the noise of our engines, leading to complaints from airport neighbors.
We sent teams of editors to Europe and across the country for the information in this special report called “GA and the Environment.” We look to Europe for the latest environmental trends that affect GA and for the solutions under development. Environmentally clean solar and electric propulsion systems are in their infancy, but don’t dismiss the advances that are coming. We also detail how you may be able to burn less fuel—saving money, reducing emissions, and lowering the amount of lead in the atmosphere. We highlight some of the most promising solutions for alternative lead-free fuels. With acres of open space, airports can be environmentally friendly to a community, but nonetheless, as you’ll read, some airports are striving to further reduce their effect on the environment.
While there is plenty of controversy about mankind’s impact on the environment, there is no doubt that issues relating to the environment will impact GA in the future. We hope these articles stimulate your thinking and start a dialog about the future of general aviation. To add your voice to the discussion, post your comments on our Reporting Points blog online.