Making Progress with a Collaborative Approach

Aviation fuel stakeholders from industry, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the military met at the semi-annual ASTM International aviation fuel subcommittee meeting in Jacksonville, FL recently to review current and proposed aviation fuel specifications and standards.

The members of this subcommittee have worked together over the past six months to develop a specification for the 100VLL (Very Low Lead) grade of aviation gasoline (avgas). The subcommittee approved the addition of 100VLL to the current avgas specification, D910. It is expected that the updated version of the D910 specification will be issued in late spring. This is a major step forward because this new grade of avgas will help airports comply with impending Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards which will mandate reduced lead emissions in certain "non-attainment" geographic areas by 2017.

The Swift 102UL "test specification" was also passed by the subcommittee. Like 100VLL, it should be published in late spring. This test specification is intended to provide a documented fuel definition to support continued ASTM and FAA testing of the fuel. Once this testing is completed, Swift and ASTM will work on publishing a production specification that will support broader application of this fuel.

A third specification, ASTM D7592, "Standard Specification for Specification for Grade 94 Unleaded Aviation Gasoline Certification and Test Fuel", was added to the current group of available aviation gasoline specifications when it was published by ASTM in November, 2010. This specification was initially proposed to the aviation fuel subcommittee two years ago as an unleaded option for the portion of the current fleet of reciprocating engine-powered aircraft that can operate on lower octane fuels.

The speed with which the review and approval process was conducted for these specifications exemplifies the high priority the subcommittee and the FAA place on alternatives to lead-containing avgas.

In parallel with the progress at ASTM, both Swift and General Aviation Modifications, Inc (GAMI) are taking steps forward in their respective Supplemental Type Certification (STC) projects for approval of their fuels. In Daytona Beach, Swift, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) and their partners Cessna and Lycoming Engines are coordinating with the FAA to develop compliance and test plans to certify their fleet of Cessna C-172S aircraft to operate on the unleaded Swift fuel. While out west in Oklahoma, GAMI is preparing to travel to New England to visit the FAA Engine and Propeller Directorate in January to continue work on their compliance program.

In addition to the role the FAA is playing in the above initiatives, we are also working to address the longer term goal of lead-free aviation fuels. We are putting the final touches on a charter for an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to develop an industry-government plan to transition the entire General Aviation (GA) fleet to unleaded fuels. We hope to have the charter signed by the FAA Administrator and issued before the end of January, and then to finalize the membership of the committee soon thereafter. The first meeting of this Unleaded Avgas Transition ARC is expected to be convened before the end of March. The FAA looks forward to working with its industry partners on this committee over the next several months to identify the steps that the aviation fuel community needs to take to achieve our eventual goal of lead-free fuels.

While we do not yet have an ultimate solution to the public's concerns with leaded avgas, it's encouraging to see the progress achieved in this interim period through the collaborative efforts of the FAA and its industry partners from engine and aircraft companies, petroleum companies, other government agencies such as the EPA, and from forward-thinking new venture entrepreneurs such as Swift Enterprises and GAMI.