EAA's Doug MacNair
discusses the general aviation industry's avgas coalition
Tuesday before attendees at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2010. Photo
by Jim Koepnick
When the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) earlier this year requested that the public suggest
alternatives to leaded aviation gasoline, the request set off what
likely will be a lengthy and complicated transition to an unleaded fuel
for general aviation.
In response, a coalition comprised of
general-aviation associations and petroleum-industry organizations
formed with the expressed goal to develop and implement "the
process by which an unleaded avgas solution will be identified."
That coalition presented an update
Tuesday for EAA AirVenture 2010 attendees and reported on its plans.
The issue, of course, is minimizing or
replacing the lead-more correctly the amount of tetraethyl lead
(TEL)-found in existing 100LL aviation gasoline.
The EPA's request earlier this year has
its roots in a 2006 petition filed by the environmental group Friends of
the Earth, which essentially asked the agency to regulate general
aviation's lead emissions.
In response, the EPA said it is examining
whether 100LL poses a health risk and, if it does, whether that risk is
great enough to mandate minimizing or eliminating it.
Importantly, there is no deadline under
which the EPA is operating and no one expects the general aviation
industry will one day suddenly wake up to find 100LL no longer
Working on a transition
Instead, the general aviation industry
and the avgas coalition are working to use the EPA process as an
opportunity, one designed to identify and transition to an unleaded fuel
in an orderly fashion. Its work so far can be broken down into a
short-term and a long-term strategy.
In the near-term, the GA avgas coalition
wants to achieve net reductions in the lead released into the
environment around airports. The coalition does not envision this
objective will require actions by manufacturers or operators. Instead, a
"drop-in" alternative to 100LL-dubbed 100ULL, for "ultra
low-lead"-is being sought, one which meets the needs of all
piston-engine aircraft without modifications.
Over the long run, the coalition has
embraced a five-phase strategy.
First, it is convinced the FAA must be
involved from the beginning and, in fact, be in a leadership position
over a public/private partnership designed to identify the best
The solution itself, whether an unleaded
or ultra-low-lead avgas, will be defined during the second phase. This
will involve developing a specification for an unleaded avgas, including
a certification process allowing use of the new fuel.
As EAA's Doug McNair noted during
Tuesday's meeting, the industry has never tried to certify a fuel for
Instead, the aircraft have always been
certified for an existing fuel.
The third phase of the avgas coalition's
long-term strategy is to develop and approve a new specification for
adoption by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
In a fourth phase, according to the
coalition, that resulting ASTM specification would be used to certify
new production aircraft and engines, possibly in a fashion allowing use
of the new fuel as well as 100LL during a transition period.
Finally, the avgas coalition's fifth
long-term strategy phase involves federal regulation by the FAA and EPA
of the transition to an unleaded avgas. This includes the FAA approvals
and certifications necessary to ensure safe and legal operation as well
as the required fuel production and distribution infrastructure.
Cooperation, coordination are key
The coalition acknowledges new or additional regulations may be
required if portions of the in-service fleet cannot transition to the
new fuel within a set timeframe.
As the coalition moves forward, it has
agreed on three core principles.
First, safety must be assured, including
ensuring aircraft performance and materials compatibility.
Second, the impact of any new, unleaded
avgas on the existing fleet of small, low-powered engines and much
larger, turbocharged, high-compression powerplants must be minimized.
Third and finally, a new aviation
gasoline must be available at a sustainable price.
At the meeting's close, EAA President Tom
Poberezny summed up the coalition's daunting task, noting, "We're
all coming at this from different levels of knowledge and different
perspectives. We as a community must work together to present one voice
or we're not going to make much progress."
Clearly, however, many different
organizations with varying priorities and concerns are watching this
process very closely.
One of the coalition's challenges will be
to address those concerns and, when necessary, develop appropriate
That won't happen during EAA AirVenture
2010, and probably not by the time we all return here next year.
But, as a result of ongoing efforts by
organizations like EAA and the avgas coalition, it will happen