The hunt for one or more unleaded replacements for avgas is continuing on target, members of the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) Steering Group said following a three-day meeting to evaluate the program’s progress.
The PAFI Steering Group, which includes AOPA, gathered July 8 through 10 at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. During the meeting the group received a high-level update on the progress of initial testing of potential replacement fuels for leaded avgas.
To establish a baseline for comparison, scientists are using a mix of lab and fit-for-purpose rig tests. Among the areas being tested for each potential replacement fuel are toxicity, low temperature fuel flow, storage stability under a variety of conditions, and compatibility with materials used in aircraft, such as fuel bladders, fabrics, and metals.
“We’re pleased that the testing program is moving ahead, on schedule,” said David Oord, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “This is an important issue, not only for aircraft owners but also for the future and sustainability of general aviation, and we’ll continue to work with the FAA and our industry partners to keep the process on track and ensure that the real-world needs of pilots are met.”
In September 2014, the FAA selected four unleaded aviation fuels to undergo Phase 1 testing.
Two fuels developed by Swift Fuels and one fuel each developed by Shell and TOTAL are now undergoing testing, a process that is expected to be complete by late 2015. The most promising fuels will then go to Phase 2 testing in engines and aircraft. The FAA has said it hopes to have an unleaded replacement for avgas certified by 2018, and the program is on target to reach that goal.
The fuels were submitted for consideration through PAFI, a joint industry-government effort to facilitate the development and deployment of a new unleaded avgas that will meet the needs of the existing piston-engine aircraft fleet. In addition to AOPA and the FAA, the PAFI Steering Group 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.