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FAA Selects Four Fuels for Initial Testing

September 8, 2014 – EAA is encouraged by today’s announcement by the FAA, which has selected four unleaded aviation fuels to undergo initial testing in the search for a viable alternative to leaded avgas. Those fuels – two from Swift Fuels, one from Shell, and one from TOTAL – will begin Phase 1 lab and rig testing this fall at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Testing will continue until fall 2015.

“This is another important milestone in the collaborative effort between the aviation community, fuel producers, and the FAA to find future replacements for 100 low-lead fuel for GA aircraft,” said Jack Pelton, EAA’s chairman of the board. “We all have a single goal: finding the best possible outcome for the widest spectrum of the GA fleet. EAA stands ready to continue its active participation in this important initiative.”

The companies submitted fuels for consideration through the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI), a joint industry-government effort to facilitate the development and deployment of a new unleaded avgas that will best meet the needs of the existing piston-engine aircraft fleet. In addition to EAA and the FAA, the PAFI Steering Group includes the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the American Petroleum Institute, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the National Air Transportation Association, and the National Business Aviation Association.

After the submission process, which closed July 1, the FAA assessed the viability of the candidate fuels and evaluated the proposals in terms of impact on the existing fleet, production and distribution infrastructure, environmental considerations, toxicological effects, and cost of aircraft operations.

For Phase 1 testing, fuel developers supply 100 gallons of fuel, and successful fuels will move on to aircraft and engine testing. Phase 2, which the FAA expects to conclude in 2018, will require 10,000 gallons of fuel and will generate standardized qualification and certification data, as well as property and performance data.

Congress appears poised to set aside approximately $6 million to continue the testing program in 2015. The FAA has established a 2018 milestone to develop at least one new unleaded fuel suitable for as much of the general aviation piston aircraft fleet as possible.

There are approximately 167,000 aircraft in the United States and a total of 230,000 worldwide that primarily rely on low-lead avgas, the only transportation fuel in the United States that contains added tetraethyl lead (TEL) in order to create the very high octane levels required by high-performance aircraft engines. Operations with inadequate octane can result in engine failures.

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