The FAA has accepted nine fuels to be evaluated as potential replacements to 100 low-lead avgas, marking significant progress in the search for an unleaded fuel to serve the general aviation fleet. Worldwide, approximately 230,000 aircraft primarily rely on 100 low-lead avgas for safe operation, and some 167,000 of those are based in the United States.
The FAA announced July 10 that it had received proposals from five different groups, including Afton Chemical Company; Avgas LLC; Shell; Swift Fuels; and a consortium made up of BP, TOTAL, and Hjelmco. Companies worldwide were given until July 1 to submit unleaded fuels for evaluation as part of the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI).
“Aviation organizations, the petroleum industry, and the FAA are working collaboratively to ensure the aviation community will have access to unleaded fuel that meets performance and safety standards, is affordable, and can be used by the existing fleet with minimal disruption,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We are pleased with the progress so far and look forward to the next phase.”
AOPA is a key member of the PAFI Steering Group, which also includes the American Petroleum Institute, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the National Air Transportation Association, and the National Business Aviation Association.
With the deadline to submit fuels closed, each proposal will be evaluated in terms of the impact on the existing fleet, production and distribution infrastructure, environment, toxicological effects, and cost of aircraft operations. The most promising fuels will be selected for the first phase of laboratory testing, set to begin in September at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center.
From there the field will be further narrowed and the most viable candidates will move on to full-scale testing in engines and aircraft. The goal of this second phase of testing, which will require selected manufacturers to submit 10,000 gallons of fuel each, is to generate standardized property and performance data necessary to demonstrate scalability of production, and support qualification and fleet-wide certification data.
The FAA has set a goal of deploying an unleaded avgas by 2018, and Congress has expressed its support for the program, providing $6 million in funding this year and proposing the same level of funding for 2015.