Avgas Coalition on Aviation Fuel Pushes for 100LL Bridge

A letter petitions for the need to continue availability of the current fuel supply during the transition to unleaded avgas.

Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose, California, was one of the first airports to suffer a ban on the sale of 100LL. [Photo courtesy of AOPA/Mike Fizer]

The Avgas Coalition last week delivered a letter petitioning the Department of Transportation and the FAA to maintain availability of 100LL during the transition period to unleaded fuel.

The coalition—consisting of more than 110 members of the general and business aviation community—delivered the letter to DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Acting FAA Administrator  Billy Nolen on May 6 in response to recent moves by airports in California to ban the sale of 100LL effective immediately, with no broad mitigation for the prohibition in place.

“The need to remove lead from aviation fuel is something everyone is behind,” said Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) president Mark Baker. “What’s happening at Reid-Hillview Airport in California is having a chilling effect in moving forward with a safe and smart transition.”

What Happened at Reid-Hillview

On January 1, Santa Clara County (California) officials enacted a sudden ban on the sale of 100LL at two county airports—Reid-Hillview (KRHV) and San Martin Airport (E16)—with no recourse for operators who require the higher octane value of the leaded avgas. Unleaded fuel (Swift 94UL produced by Swift Fuels) would be available, but that’s not a solution for the 30 percent of the GA piston fleet that cannot use it. 

“What’s happening at Reid-Hillview Airport in California is having a chilling effect in moving forward with a safe and smart transition.”

Mark Baker, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) president

That 30 percent, including popular high-performance airplanes such as the Beech Bonanza and Cessna 206, purchases 70 percent of the 100LL sold in the U.S. Misfueling these aircraft can cause detonation and engine power loss—potentially resulting in catastrophic engine failure and a subsequent off-airport landing or accident.

AOPA points out that since the ban, humanitarian flights have steered away from Reid-Hillview, impacting their operations in a harmful way.

Current Discussions Underway

FAA and DOT officials are currently in talks with Santa Clara County officials to take care of other safety issues at the airport that have moved it into noncompliance—along with the significant safety concern posed by the banning of 100LL sales.

In a statement from AOPA, the letter outlined that “the action to suddenly not offer fuel that had recently been available by an obligated airport to the aircraft and engines that require it ‘could pose a violation of federal grant obligations by creating an access restriction to that airport and unjust discrimination.’”

The letter also stated that the Avgas Coalition has requested "that any agreement include the availability of 100LL fuel at Reid-Hillview during a transition to unleaded fuel…Allowing the County’s unilateral action to unfairly discriminate against certain users of our public-use airport system is wrong and if not addressed could exacerbate the situation by causing a domino effect at airports across the nation.”

The Avgas Coalition is just part of a broad spectrum of stakeholders—including refiners, producers, distributors, OEMs, airports, and FBOs—are working with the Biden Administration to source a replacement fuel applicable fleetwide by 2030.

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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