While the entire general aviation industry supports and is actively pushing toward an unleaded fuel future, it is deeply concerned with a rash decision by Santa Clara County, the operator of Reid-Hillview and San Martin airports in California, to ban the sale of 100LL as of 1 January, 2022. This move will leave piston engine aircraft at the airports with no fuel option approved for use in the entire piston GA fleet, significantly increasing the risk of aircraft misfuelling.
NATA president and CEO Timothy Obitts says: “NATA and its members are committed to finding an unleaded future for our industry, and we are also committed to doing so safely. Allowing Santa Clara County to arbitrarily ban 100LL avgas sales sets a dangerous precedent that will pose risks and cause serious safety problems.”
NBAA senior vice president for safety, security, sustainability and international operations Doug Carr underscores the importance of preserving the availability of a range of avgas fuels at airports nationwide near term. “The general aviation industry has been working diligently for years to effect a safe transition of the entire GA fleet to unleaded fuels, and we are calling upon the FAA to prohibit a patchwork of local leaded gas bans, which threaten to compromise safety and critical airport access during this transition,” he said.
In a letter to FAA administrator Stephen Dickson, the organisations called on the agency to use its aviation safety mandate to prohibit individual airports from interrupting the availability of 100LL and stifling the cooperative industry-government effort to safely transition the entire general aviation fleet to unleaded fuels. It is vital to public safety to mitigate [misfuelling] risks for pilots and passengers, and for the people and property on the ground during this transition.
The FAA was reminded that engine failures from misfuellings often occur at critical phases of flight, such as on take off and climb out, and NTSB accident reports document the grim outcomes.
The letter pointed out that there are already misfuelling risks where visually similar airframes require different types of fuel (eg Cessna 421 and Cessna 441), and some popular piston aircraft models (eg Beechcraft Bonanzas) are fleets in which some aircraft have engines that can use unleaded fuel and other aircraft do not.
Furthermore, piston aircraft with high-compression engines consume 75 per cent of the 100LL sold in the US; many of these engines are not approved to use unleaded fuels currently available in the marketplace. Those that are approved to use a lower octane unleaded formulation must still obtain a supplemental type certificate to legally use the fuel. This can create a dilemma and risk to pilots who land at an airport at which only a lower octane fuel is available than what they require to safely fly.
The groups add: “We are committed to working with the FAA and industry stakeholders to effect a smart, managed nationwide transition to unleaded fuels in general aviation aircraft, one with safety at its core. Unlike automobiles, if an aircraft has engine trouble, it cannot simply pull over to the side of the road. The automobile industry took time to safely transition to unleaded fuels and was successful, and the aviation industry must do the same.”
The letter was signed by leaders of the AOPA, EAA, NBAA, GAMA, NATA and HAI.