In a May 6 letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen, a wide array of aviation organizations and associations across the country outlined the crucial need for 100LL fuel to be available at California’s Reid-Hillview of Santa Clara County Airport, and all public-use airports across the country, while the industry works with the administration to find a fleetwide fuel solution as quickly as possible. The letter explained that the issue is one of both safety and discrimination.
The letter was signed by the more than 110 members of the Avgas Coalition, a group of aviation stakeholders aligned on the need for a smart and safe transition to an unleaded fuel solution that works for the entire general aviation fleet. The coalition represents the many interests in and perspectives on this transition, and members have pledged to work together and use the necessary resources to make safe unleaded avgas for all aircraft a reality.
GA leaders expressed safety concerns about the rushed decision by Santa Clara County officials to unilaterally prevent the sale of 100LL fuel at Reid-Hillview Airport and San Martin Airport as of January 1. The letter pointed out that many of the 200,000 aircraft in the current GA piston fleet require higher-octane fuel to fly safely, and that misfuelling can cause detonation and engine malfunction resulting in catastrophic engine failure.
Not having 100LL available can lead to the grounding of nearly 30 percent of the piston fleet, which accounts for 70 percent of all GA fuel sales in the United States. GA piston aircraft that require higher-octane fuel are often performing life-saving emergency response, search and rescue, law enforcement, or other humanitarian missions. The lack of 100LL fuel at Reid-Hillview has already had a negative impact on humanitarian flights because aircraft are now unable to refuel at the airport.
DOT and FAA leaders are currently in discussions with Santa Clara County officials to resolve longstanding noncompliance issues at Reid-Hillview, including measures that impact pilot and community safety.
The letter explained that the action to suddenly not offer fuel that had recently been available by an obligated airport to the aircraft and engines that require it “could pose a violation of federal grant obligations by creating an access restriction to that airport and unjust discrimination.”
The letter went on the state that the Avgas Coalition respectfully requests "that any agreement include the availability of 100LL fuel at Reid-Hillview during a transition to unleaded fuel … Allowing the County’s unilateral action to unfairly discriminate against certain users of our public-use airport system is wrong and if not addressed could exacerbate the situation by causing a domino effect at airports across the nation.”
The letter also reminded government officials that the entire industry—including refiners, producers, distributors, engine manufacturers, pilots, airports, and FBOs—is working closely with the Biden administration to find a fleetwide unleaded replacement fuel no later than 2030.