AirVenture EAGLE Forum On Unleaded Avgas Drew A Large Crowd

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At Monday’s AirVenture EAGLE forum on unleaded fuel, FAA head of certification Lirio Liu expressed optimism that the finish line could come sooner than the group’s published target date of 2030 but would not promise a detailed timeline. Liu, a longtime top-level FAA executive who has experience with multiple facets of the agency’s oversight, recently replaced Earl Lawrence in the position, and this is her first visit to AirVenture in her new capacity.

The forum consisted of an hour-plus presentation supporting EAGLE (Eliminate Aviation Gas Lead Emissions), a 100-plus-member joint FAA/industry follow-on to PAFI (Piston Aviation Fuel Initiative). A host of presenters made the case for EAGLE slowing the process to be sure “we get it right,” words expressed by—among other panelists—recently retired AOPA Pilot magazine editor (and Bonanza owner) Tom Haines, who served as moderator for the forum.

Several panelists pointed out that a main driver for the effort to remove lead from avgas is an expected draft of an “endangerment finding” on leaded avgas from the Environmental Protection Agency, expected in October. The final finding is not expected until a year later, and panelists said it could be five to eight years before the finding is acted upon—thus the 2030 projected deadline for EAGLE’s program.

Frustration has been building over delays in the FAA finalizing a virtually fleetwide Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for G100UL, a prospective 100LL replacement developed over the past dozen or so years by Ada, Oklahoma-based General Aviation Modifications Inc. (GAMI), headed by the outspoken George Braly. In the days leading up to AirVenture, there was even talk of a protest and one attendee was passing out hand-printed placards for people to hold up urging the agency to move the process along. Braly attended the forum but was not called upon to speak and chose not to ask a question during the Q&A session, later telling AVweb that the rules stipulated that he not “make a statement.”

On stage was a long lineup of FAA staffers, supported by representatives from most of the aviation trade and advocacy groups, including AOPA, EAA, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).

EAGLE’s mission statement defines its end goal: “To eliminate lead from all aviation fuel by 2030 without negatively impacting the safe and efficient operations of the current GA fleet.” While he said he fully supports the STC process, GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce expressed his own frustration with “misrepresentation in the press” related to the frustration many aircraft operators feel with lack of action on approving the STC.

Several of the speakers, including FAA’s Maria DiPasquantonio, reiterated EAGLE’s platform of “four pillars” necessary for safe and commercially successful implementation of any fleetwide 100LL replacement: Regulatory and Safety; Testing and Qualification; Research and Development; and Business Infrastructure and Implementation. DiPasquantonio also outlined the two pathways toward implementation: the STC process, and the more laborious—but EAGLE says necessary to ensure all pillars are supported—process of further study and verification.

EAGLE co-founder Mark Baker, AOPA president, emphasized his commitment that the initiative have all stakeholders on board, including manufacturers, service organizations such as maintenance shops and FBOs, regulators, refiners, insurance providers and many more.

Baker reiterated his concern for ensuring 100LL remain available until the final replacement fuel is approved and widely available.

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Has anyone at FAA or among the alphabet groups identified any specific deficiencies in the STC package submitted by GAMI? If not, why is FAA withholding approval of GAMI’s STC and why are the alphabets supporting FAA in further delaying that approval through the EAGLE process? These are obvious questions; can none of the assembled experts address them? If not, it would appear GAMI’s STC should be approved without further delay.

  2. Why do we never hear that this is an issue in Europe? Maybe because they are well on the way to a Mogas / Diesel solution? What happens when Austria’s Rotax brings its larger Mogas-burning engines into production? I have the sense that the Alphabets are “leading from behind”, to quote a former president who was no friend of GA.

  3. It is telling that George Braly was not allowed to comment. It also seems a bit odd that the article was not written by Paul Bertorelli, who has followed this debacle for years. So, the FAA gets extended funding to “study” the proposed solution. It is my hope that the various “alphabets” have elicited some consideration for GA in return for their continued support of the FAA’s intransigence. Of course, it is possible that diesel-electric hybrid or fully electric power-plants will be available by 2030.

  4. Clarify:
    – is GAMI’s (George Braley et al) STC with initial short Approved Model List still valid? (Several Cessna 172 models, probably oriented to a flight training school.)
    – is GAMI’s (George Braley et al) other STC with initial short Approved Model List still valid? (Several O-320 and 360 engines)
    i think YES as they are listed on FAA’s web site.

    There is an FAA approved Flight Manual Supplement.

    So IF you can find supply and you license use of STC from GAMI you can fly using G100LL on those airplanes and engines.

    There is a long AML of engines, including Twin Wasp roundies used on aircraft like DC-6B, on GAMI’s web site, stamped as digitally approved by FAA though the browser tab says ‘draft’.

    AvFuel lists G100UL on its web site, with an FAQ, search function awkward to find where you could purchase it.

    So what is the legal holdup to widespread use?

    • Unfortunately AvFuel is not very bright about helping people find G100UL.

      They could work for FAA. :-o)

      Not the first time I’ve seen a company unable to sell a new product, that’s why businesses fail.

    • The hurdle is that fuel distributors don’t want to sell a third fuel. Without the blanket STC, only a few customers will use it. Most airports only have facilities to dispense Jet A and Avgas. Adding temporary support for a third fuel is considered too expensive. If the entire piston fleet can switch at once, then 100LL can be easily replaced.

      • Distribution is not FAA’s problem; only safety is within FAA’s wheelhouse. FAA should immediately approve GAMI’s STC package or specify the safety reason for continuing to withhold approval. The market will determine distribution.

  5. The FAA and over 100 member alphabet groups team up against GAMI’s G100UL. Wow…, if G100UL is so bad at least one of these elite experts should be able to inform the public of why❓

    If G100UL is not working in the high horsepower turbocharged engines let the operators of these engines decide. 100LL will still be around until 2030, right❓

    • Each individual should be free to decide for themself.

      GAMI has done extensive testing on detonation, especially compared to 100LL.

      GAMI’s long AML for engines includes the R-2800 engine used on many military airplanes and the DC-6B airliner. (It came in many power levels and design vintages.)

      I understand that some people derate the engine to use lower octane fuel (with 100/130 hard to find and 130/145 perhaps near impossible).

      Wikipedia quotes Lycoming as saying that special oil is needed with unleaded avgas, via an additive or some brands of oil, to properly lubricate the valve train.

      Wikipedia notes other potential UL avgas offerings including Swift’s, but is mostly out of date on them. It refers to a new ASTM specification for unleaded Avgas (ASTM D7719).

      Swift abandoned the STC path and went with the PAFI program, though its website is confusing. It has STC licenses on sale for $100 pr airfram-engine combination. But web stie is confusing between UL94 and 100UL.

  6. You got that backwards. Swift was in the original PAFI and bailed on it in favor of what appears to be an STC application. They haven’t stated that plainly. Their UL94 is a ASTM D7719 spec fuel. The spec covers high aromatic fuels broadly. You still need STCs to use it, or blanket approval from the engine manufacturer.

  7. The problem I see with the STC route is gaining the on airport infrastructure to support the sale of a new fuel. FBOs will not invest in the infrastructure until there is a crystal clear path and even then they may resist spending the money (ie. wait on a path to apply for a government grant that currently doesn’t exist). Because of this I think an STC for an alternative fuel is a bridge to no-where.

    I wish I had been at AirVenture to attend this forum. I am hoping there was a video recording capturing it. Does anyone have a link to view it after the fact?

  8. Still not hearing WHY E0 mogas, whatever octane, cannot work. It only took auto industry a couple years to get rid of lead. It’s taken, so far, over 40 YEARS, and the FAA still has nothing but hype and hyperbole.