August 4, 2012

A coalition of leading U.S. general aviation (GA) associations, including NBAA, recently called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to support additional funding for research into a feasible drop-in replacement for leaded aviation fuel.

“We are at a critical phase between consideration of the Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee (UAT ARC) recommendations and implementation of a fiscally responsible Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unleaded avgas program that will achieve this objective,” read the Aug. 1 letter to FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta. “Adequate funding of $5.5 million for such an avgas program in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget is extremely important, not only for the economic sustainability of general aviation in the U.S., but for its safety.”

Review the coalition letter to the FAA. (200KB, PDF)

The letter, signed by the leaders of five GA advocacy groups, followed an earlier meeting between industry representatives and FAA officials at EAA AirVenture 2012 in Oshkosh, WI, to discuss the results of a UAT ARC final report on possible replacements for 100LL avgas. That report, released June 28, included recommendations on how to expedite development and deployment of an alternative fuel for the existing piston-engine aircraft fleet by 2018.

Review the UAT ARC final report.

The amount of funding requested in the letter is less than what was recommended in the UAT ARC report, but it is more than double the $2 million previously allocated for the research and development of a replacement fuel. The groups called the $5.5 million request a “fiscally responsible” compromise; to further mitigate research costs, the groups also suggested that potential manufacturers of the eventual replacement fuel share development and flight-testing costs.

Those cooperative efforts would also help speed a solution to address “a significant concern” to GA manufacturers and operators, according to the letter.

“From a consumer standpoint, the lack of clarity [on a replacement fuel] erodes confidence and negatively affects safety decisions,” the letter noted. “For example, repair and overhaul of engines and investment decisions, such as avionics and NextGen equipage and replacement of aging aircraft with new ones, are hindered due to ambiguity on the way forward.”

The ability to transition to a new fuel “in a way that effectively balances environmental improvement with aviation safety, technical challenges and economic impact” is of paramount importance to the industry, the groups added.

The letter was signed by NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, as well as Craig L. Fuller, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Rod Hightower, president and CEO of the Experimental Aircraft Association; Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; and James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association.