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GAMA Notes FAA Deadline to Begin Evaluation of Unleaded AvGas

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) today noted the July 1 deadline for candidate fuels to be submitted to the FAA for testing through the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) process. The agency received ten replacement fuel proposals from the world’s fuel producers, including submissions from Afton Chemical Company, Avgas LLC, Shell, Swift Fuels, and a consortium made up of BP, TOTAL, and Hjelmco.

“The July 1 deadline marked one step closer to eventually transitioning to an unleaded avgas in our piston-engine fleet,” GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said. “This development is a key milestone for ensuring the continued safety of our aircraft, benefiting the environment, and minimizing the economic disruption to our industry.”

PAFI is a joint industry-government effort to facilitate the development and deployment of a new unleaded avgas that will meet the needs of the existing piston-engine aircraft fleet. In addition to GAMA and the FAA, the PAFI Steering Group includes the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association, the American Petroleum Institute, the Experimental Aviation Association, the National Air Transportation Association, and the National Business Aviation Association.

The FAA will assess the viability of the fuels using the data and information packages provided by the candidates. The agency will evaluate the proposals in terms of their impact on the existing fleet, production and distribution infrastructure, environment, toxicological effects, and availability to consumers in terms of cost to aircraft operations.

The most promising fuels will be selected to participate in laboratory testing led by the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey beginning in September. Fuel developers will be asked to supply 100 gallons of fuel for phase one testing. Fuels that are determined to be potentially viable replacements in this evaluation will move on to phase two, which is comprised of full-scale engine and aircraft testing. This phase will require 10,000 gallons of fuel and will generate standardized property and performance data necessary to demonstrate scalability of production, and support qualification and fleet-wide certification.

The U.S. Congress fully supports this multi-year program to facilitate development and deployment of a new unleaded replacement avgas by 2018. Six million dollars was provided to this program for the current Fiscal Year (FY) of 2014. Additionally, both the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees have proposed funding another $6 million in FY 2015 for the program, which is $300,000 above President Obama’s request.

Approximately 167,000 aircraft in the United States and 230,000 aircraft worldwide primarily rely on the currently available 100 low-lead avgas for safe operation. It is the only remaining transportation fuel in the United States that contains added tetraethyl lead (TEL) needed to create the very high-octane levels required by high-performance aircraft engines. Operations with inadequate octane can result in engine failures.

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