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EAA Joins Aviation Groups Calling on FAA to Mitigate Santa Clara County’s Rushed Decision to Ban 100LL Fuel
December 15, 2021 – While the entire general aviation industry supports, and is actively pushing toward, an unleaded fuel future, it is deeply concerned with a rash decision by Santa Clara (California) County to ban the sale of 100LL as of January 1, 2022. This move will leave piston-engine aircraft at the airports with no fuel option approved for use in the entire piston GA fleet, significantly increasing the risk of aircraft misfuelling.
In a letter to FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson, the organizations called on the FAA to use its “aviation safety mandate to prohibit individual airports from interrupting the availability of 100LL and stifling the cooperative industry-government effort to safely transition the entire general aviation fleet to unleaded fuels. It is vital to public safety to mitigate [misfuelling] risks for pilots and passengers, and for the people and property on the ground during this transition.”
The FAA was reminded that engine failures from misfuellings often occur at critical phases of flight, such as on takeoff and climb-out, and NTSB accident reports document the grim outcomes.
The letter pointed out that there are already misfuelling risks where visually similar airframes require different types of fuel and some popular piston aircraft models (such as Beechcraft Bonanzas) are fleets in which some aircraft have engines that can use unleaded fuel and other aircraft do not.
“Aviation safety must be at the forefront of any decisions that affect those who fly, regardless of the intentions behind the regulatory concept,” said Jack J. Pelton, EAA CEO and Chairman of the Board. “Creating a patchwork of local laws and ordinances do not advance safety; in fact, it muddles any situation further and puts in place an environment where mistakes can occur, with tragic consequences.”
Piston aircraft with high-compression engines consume 75 percent of the 100LL sold in the U.S.; many of these engines are not approved to use unleaded fuels currently available in the marketplace. Those that are approved to use a lower-octane unleaded formulation must still obtain a supplemental type certificate to legally use the fuel. This can create a dilemma and risk to pilots who land at an airport at which only a lower-octane fuel is available than what they require to safely fly.
The groups added, “We are committed to working with the FAA and industry stakeholders to effect a smart, managed nationwide transition to unleaded fuels in general aviation aircraft, one with safety at its core. Unlike automobiles, if an aircraft has engine trouble, it cannot simply pull over to the side of the road. The automobile industry took time to safely transition to unleaded fuels and was successful, and the aviation industry must do the same.”
The letter was signed by leaders of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, National Business Aviation Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, National Air Transportation Association, and Helicopter Association International.