FAA Testing of 100LL Replacement Fuels Begins

Transition away from low lead avgas begins.

100LL Fuel

100LL Fuel

The FAA has launched Phase I testing of four unleaded aviation fuels at its William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, officially beginning aviation's much heralded transition away from low lead avgas.

Two fuels developed by Swift Fuels and one fuel each developed by Shell and Total are now undergoing laboratory and rig testing, which is expected to continue for the next year as the FAA seeks to start phasing out 100LL avgas as early as 2018.

The potential replacement fuels were submitted for testing under the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI), 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, totaling around 167,000 airplanes. The PAFI steering group consists of the FAA, AOPA, the American Petroleum Institute, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the National Air Transportation Association, and the National Business Aviation Association.

The tests underway now seek to determine whether the unleaded replacement fuels are compatible with aircraft systems such as fuel bladders, hoses, pumps, gauges and more. Two or three of the candidate fuels will be selected for Phase II testing, which will involve flight trials of the unleaded fuels, including flying with mixtures of 100LL and unleaded avgas.

The two-phase test program is being funded with about $6 million per year earmarked by Congress.

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