by Kyle Lewis
Airports & State Advocacy • Great Lakes Region
Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine April/May 2022 online issue
If you have been anywhere near other pilots, or have had an ear to aviation news, you know that the biggest issue facing general aviation today is the pressure to remove lead from our fuels.
We get it, and we’re on it.
Much of that pressure, we are putting on ourselves. AOPA and the GA industry are 100% all in for a total lead-free future. At the same time, however, we are firmly in favor of a transition that gets us there safely and smartly. No one I know defends lead, but we do defend the need to make the transition to one that safely works for the entire fleet. All 200,000 aircraft. No less.
We need to achieve this goal soon. Airports are under threats of closure (some city councils and other governing bodies are using the leaded fuel issue as the current flavor of the month to close the local airport), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently said it is going to pursue a potential endangerment finding against the industry. That could come as early as 2023.
With the clocks ticking, AOPA joined a partnership of GA associations, airports, manufacturers, and fuel producers, and the FAA just last week to announce an initiative to eliminate the use of leaded aviation fuel by the end of 2030. This pledge includes the focus on not compromising any safety for the current piston-engine fleet. EAGLE (Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions) is bringing everyone together (everyone!) who is a party to this issue in a way in which we can all work together toward this goal.
However, it’s important to note that EAGLE is just one means that is being used, although it is an important one.
The bottom line here is urgency, and building on the progress we have already made, especially in light of the pending EPA action. EAGLE is about getting to lead-free by 2030, but truth be told, we’re looking to get there sooner. We have to.
While EAGLE is an important effort, again, it’s a means. What we’re focused on is the GOAL: the drop-in UL100 fuel for the entire fleet. AOPA continues to support all avenues to get us to this finish line as soon as we safely can. Progress has been made, from GAMI’s G100UL STC approvals, to Swift’s UL94 at several airports and its 100UL candidate (and other testing of other high octane unleaded fuels). There is light at the end of this road.
As you would expect, AOPA President Mark Baker is a leader of the EAGLE initiative, as he will often say that the search for the drop-in high-octane unleaded fuel is the biggest issue he has faced in his eight years at the helm of AOPA. For what Mark has seen and successfully managed at AOPA, that is saying a lot.
Another thing Mark and other AOPA leaders have done, and to support the work being done by EAGLE and others, is to rally the GA community to create the Avgas Coalition.
The mission of the Avgas Coalition is clear: rally dedicated organizations who are aligned on a smart transition to unleaded aviation fuel – as part of a proactive pathway to cleaner skies. The Avgas Coalition is about being better informed, engaged and aligned in our collective goal of becoming lead-free.
In just the first few months, the Avgas Coalition has grown to more than 100 organizations that represent a wide range of perspectives. Members include AOPA, EAA, NBAA, GAMA, the American Petroleum Institute, Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association, Minnesota Pilots Association, and the Commemorative Air Force – just to name a handful.
I invite you to visit a website (aopa.org/100UL) that AOPA has created, along with the GA industry, to keep the aviation community up to date on industry and government actions in this area. We will continue to update this site.
Yes, this has been a challenge. But the push toward a lead-free GA future is also an opportunity – one that brings together all corners of the general aviation community in a way that will protect our very freedom to fly for decades to come.
I invite you to stay informed and engaged.