An FAA committee that has taken on the daunting challenge of drawing up plans for the eventual switch from 100LL aviation fuel to unleaded avgas has submitted its final report. The conclusion? A “drop-in” replacement for 100LL currently doesn’t exist, and may in fact be technically infeasible, and anyway there’s little financial motive for major suppliers to create a new fuel – still, that won’t prevent the FAA and industry from developing a new unleaded fuel for the approximately 167,000 general aviation airplanes in the United States that now rely on it.
The goal is to start the transition away from 100LL by 2018, the FAA says. The reasons for the urgency are many, but mostly center on the EPA’s desire to do away with 100LL fuel as well as a number of lawsuits aimed at making that happen.
The FAA’s Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee (UAT ARC) was formed 18 months ago to study the issue. Its final report calls for an 11-year time frame to make the change to a new fuel source, and perhaps longer than that.
Despite the challenges that lie ahead, the report’s authors said they are confident a solution can be found, although it may require certain upgrades to aircraft systems.
The FAA’s next tasks will be to test a number of potential fuel replacements and establish a collaborative industry-government project called the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) to implement the UAT ARC’s recommendations to speed the development and deployment of an unleaded avgas with the “least impact on the existing piston-engine aircraft fleet.” The FAA said it has started the initial R&D work at its Atlantic City, New Jersey, Technical Center and also hired a transition consultant to start forming PAFI.