May 9, 2022

More than 100 general aviation (GA) owner groups, flying clubs, associations and other stakeholders, including NBAA, sent a letter last week urging U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen to maintain sales of 100LL aviation gasoline at California’s Reid-Hillview Airport (RHV) as the industry works toward safe unleaded alternatives.

“It is our understanding [your agencies are] currently in discussions with Santa Clara County officials to resolve longstanding non-compliance issues by the airport,” reads the May 6 letter from the Avgas Coalition. “Allowing the county’s unilateral action to unfairly discriminate against certain users of our public-use airport system is wrong, and if not addressed could exacerbate the situation by causing a domino effect at airports across the nation.”

“We are currently at a critical juncture on the journey to transitioning to unleaded fuel at our nation’s airports,” said Alex Gertsen, NBAA director of airports and ground infrastructure. “We commend airports such as San Carlos (SQL), Santa Monica Municipal (SMO) and a number of others that have been early adopters of unleaded fuels. Unlike RHV, these airports invested in additional infrastructure to provide unleaded fuel as an option while continuing to maintain a robust supply of 100LL. SMO even went so far as to reimburse its based tenants for the costs of obtaining the STC to enable use of unleaded fuel in their aircraft.”

Emphasizing work continues to develop and implement unleaded alternatives to 100LL, including through the public-private Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions (EAGLE) initiative, the groups urged DOT officials to call on the county to maintain availability of 100LL at RHV during this transition. Learn more about the EAGLE initiative.

“Not having 100LL available can lead to the grounding of nearly 30 percent of the entire fleet, which accounts for 70% of all general aviation fuel sales in the United States,” the letter continued.

Misfueling aircraft designed for 100LL could also lead to detonation and engine failure, “which typically occurs soon after takeoff,” posing an obvious safety risk.

A ban on 100LL would also affect EMS, law enforcement and search and rescue missions operating from RHV, the letter continued, and “has already had a negative impact on humanitarian flights that are now unable to refuel their aircraft at the airport.” It may also be a violation of federal grant obligations, “by creating an access restriction to that airport and unjust discrimination” against aircraft required to use low-lead avgas.

Noting the FAA has already approved some aircraft engines to use unleaded avgas through the supplemental type certificate process, the coalition further requested the agency work to expand the list of aircraft eligible to use unleaded avgas alternatives currently available at RHV.

“Moving as quickly as possible to an unleaded future is a top priority, but this transition needs to be done safely and smartly, and without political pressure,” the letter concluded. “We respectfully request the Administration’s support for ensuring the availability of high-octane fuels at Reid-Hillview, and all of our nation’s public-use airports, while we work together to remove lead from all aviation gasoline.”

Read the full Avgas Coalition letter (PDF)