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FAA OK's 100VLL Fuel for GA Aircraft

September 20, 2011 –  The FAA announced last Wednesday the approval of a new fuel that meets a “very low lead” (VLL) specification for use in all aircraft currently operating on 100LL. The approval, issued in a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB), is the culmination of an effort initiated last year by the members of the GA Avgas Coalition – which includes EAA – the petroleum industry, and several engine and airframe manufacturers.

The new fuel specification, called 100VLL, has a maximum lead content nearly 20 percent less than the existing 100LL specification and better represents the actual amount of the lead additive used in aviation fuels today. The SAIB goes on to state, “The FAA determined that grade 100VLL meets all of the performance requirements of grades 80, 91, 100, and 100LL and will perform identically in existing aircraft and engines.”

100VLL retains all of the essential safety requirements important to aircraft owners and operators and of critical significance to those flying airplanes with high-compression engines. The FAA also states, “Consequently, and most importantly, grade 100VLL has the same minimum octane rating and will provide the same level of anti-knock performance as 100LL and 100 avgas grades.”

Much of the avgas sold today uses less than the maximum amount of lead allowed by the current 100LL specification and already meets the new “very low lead” specification. The addition of 100VLL is an important development in that it more accurately reflects the small amount of lead actually in avgas today.

The 100VLL specification may be used by individual states to address potential issues with the requirements posed by the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for lead. The EPA has ordered states to monitor air quality, including within the vicinity of 15 airports, to determine where lead levels may be above the NAAQS standard. If areas are revealed to be above the standard, states have until 2017 to submit plans to reduce lead levels below the maximum allowed. However, since the final data will not be available until after 2012, the VLL specification will be able to be used immediately in areas where the NAAQS standards are violated.

Members of the GA Avgas Coalition are working with the EPA, the FAA, engine and airframe manufacturers, the petroleum industry, and fuel developers as a member of the FAA’s Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee. This committee is tasked with developing the path industry will follow to transition to an unleaded aviation fuel while maintaining the high safety standards provided by the existing fuel.

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