Way back in February, the FAA, most of general aviation’s alphabet soup and even the American Petroleum Institute, representing Big Oil, announced their EAGLE Initiative: Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions. A joint press release at the time noted the new effort outlines how the U.S. “can safely eliminate the use of leaded aviation fuel by the end of 2030 without adversely affecting the existing piston-engine fleet.”
In our April 2022 issue, I noted the EAGLE announcement drew me back to memories of the FAA’s PAFI initiative of the 2010s, which foundered in 2018 without any notable progress. Now, four months after being formed, the EAGLE group has issued a statement following its “June 2022 stakeholder update.”
“EAGLE leaders and working groups outlined the progress being made in a number of priority areas, including fuel testing, evaluation, and authorization; research, development, and implementation; and regulatory and policy activities,” the statement read. “The group addressed a number of potential unleaded fuel candidates.” According to AOPA, EAGLE’s first meeting involved more than 170 participants.
Also according to AOPA, the association’s President, Mark Baker, was quoted as saying, “I’ve often said that if this was an easy thing to do, it would have been done already.” And that’s kind of the point: It has been done.
First, PAFI spent years and dollars coming up empty. It’s very early still, but there’s no achievement on the horizon for EAGLE yet. Second—and as I wrote for the April issue—“there already is an unleaded aviation gasoline approved by the FAA for numerous aircraft/powerplant combinations: G100UL, from General Aviation Modifications, Inc. (GAMI).” Swift Fuels, meanwhile, has a testing program underway for its Swift 100R unleaded, 100-octane fuel.
Online sister publication AVweb.com reported on EAGLE and its statement, noting, “While the group reported it has ‘addressed a number of potential unleaded fuel candidates,’ EAGLE leadership and specifically the FAA have faced pushback for lack of progress on the…[STC] process for G100UL, a potential drop-in replacement fuel developed by [GAMI].” According to GAMI, its paperwork for fleetwide STC approval for all gasoline-powered aircraft engines remains pending at the FAA.
Where all this is going to end up, and when, is anyone’s guess. The EAGLE statement concluded, in part, “While the working groups continue their dedicated work on a daily basis, the next EAGLE stakeholder update is being planned for fall 2022.” At its formation, the EAGLE initiative was forecast to conclude its efforts to come up with an unleaded fuel by 2030.
Take your time, folks.
— Jeb Burnside