July 18, 2014

General aviation (GA) pilots and industry stakeholders awaiting a viable replacement for 100 low-lead (100LL) aviation gasoline received encouraging news this month when the FAA announced that nine potential replacement fuel proposals were submitted for consideration by the agency ahead of a July 1 deadline.

NBAA is part of a coalition of groups participating in the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI), a joint industry-government effort to facilitate the development and deployment of unleaded aviation fuels for piston-engine GA aircraft.

“We are very pleased to see the PAFI achieve this milestone, on schedule, as it continues through a highly structured process to identify and develop an unleaded avgas solution,” said Eli Cotti, NBAA director, technical operations. “While it is still very early in this program, the group’s progress to date would appear to support the current timetable for deployment fleet-wide of one or more unleaded 100LL alternatives by the 2018 deadline.”

Afton Chemical Company, Avgas LLC, Shell, Swift Fuels and a consortium of BP, TOTAL and Hjelmco submitted one or more proposed fuels for “phase one” laboratory and rig testing at the FAA Technical Center. Fuels identified as technically feasible and production-viable 100LL replacements – expected by the agency to comprise roughly a third of those submitted – will advance to “phase two” (full-scale engine and aircraft testing). The FAA expects to announce the phase two candidates in September.

NBAA recently commended the U.S. House Appropriations Committee for approving $6 million in funding to support this alternative-fuel research as part of the larger fiscal year 2015 funding package for the Department of Transportation and other government agencies. Should that funding be approved, it would provide the financial resources necessary for the FAA to advance to the full-scale testing phase.

Approximately 167,000 GA aircraft in the United States utilize 100LL, which is the only remaining transportation fuel in the United States containing tetraethyl lead. Tetraethyl lead is required to achieve high-octane levels for aviation use.

Other groups represented in PAFI include the FAA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the American Petroleum Institute, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the National Air Transportation Association.