March 29, 2013 - This week's U.S. District Court dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the Friends of the Earth (FOE) environmental activist group should clear the way for continued thorough evaluations of unleaded alternatives to 100 low-lead aviation gasoline, according to the Experimental Aircraft Association. Those unleaded alternative fuels are intended to safely and economically meet the needs of the existing fleet of general aviation aircraft to the greatest extent possible.
EAA applauded the judgment by the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, which dismissed the FOE lawsuit. The court noted that FOE could not file the suit under provisions of the Clean Air Act in the hopes of forcing the Environmental Protection Agency to accelerate its timeline for endangerment findings based on general aviation aircraft emissions.
"With the dismissal of this lawsuit, we will continue our work toward an orderly GA fleet transition to an unleaded fuel based on technical data and fact instead of an arbitrary date," said Doug Macnair, EAA's vice president of government relations. "EPA has the discretion to make endangerment findings and is already monitoring air quality to support that effort as it relates to lead emissions. EPA and the FAA are working in concert to base decisions on scientific facts and policy that won't endanger aviation safety. We are encouraged that this important work can now continue in a manner consistent with both safety and reduced environmental impact."
EAA and other aviation and petroleum representatives have proposed a detailed program to the FAA for technical evaluation of high-octane unleaded alternatives to 100 low-lead aviation gasoline. That resulted in the Piston Aviation Fuel Initiative (PAFI) now being implemented to identify and evaluate the best performing and most practical unleaded replacements and make them available for certification. The initiative is supported by a combination of federal and industry funding with in-kind support from petroleum and aviation manufacturing sectors. The PAFI program is a level playing field using common test procedures and facilities, creating consistent data, and resulting in the ability to fairly and accurately evaluate the pros and cons of each fuel.
The PAFI program, a five-year initiative under a new FAA fuels office, will identify the most viable unleaded fuel candidates for the future of general aviation, and develop essential certification data to effectively transition the GA fleet to a new fuel. The program is being closely monitored and coordinated with EPA's air quality and lead emissions standards and rulemaking activities.
"The long-term goal is to transition the general aviation fleet to a safe, affordable, and available unleaded fuel," Macnair said. "That process to find a replacement is complex, not only for technical and safety reasons, but also from the perspective of being able to successfully bring the fuel to market and recertifying the entire GA fleet to use it.
"Legal actions such as the one dismissed this week only delay the already difficult work at hand. The good news is that we now have all the right technical, business, and government interests moving together in the right direction under a coordinated plan. It will not be easy or immediate, but there is a clear path forward that will lead to a successful outcome."