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Toward an unleaded future

AOPA, stakeholders meet to find avgas alternatives by 2030

In its first gathering since pledging to remove all lead from the fuel consumed by general aviation piston aircraft by 2030, an array of stakeholders under the Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions (EAGLE) banner met in Washington, D.C., to chart the path forward.

The meeting brought together more than 170 participants, representing all facets of the GA industry: GA associations, the FAA, airframe and engine manufacturers, fuel manufacturers and distributors, the Environmental Protection Agency, airport groups, and community organizations. EAGLE was formally introduced by FAA Administrator Steve Dickson during the General Aviation Manufacturers Association State of the Industry event in February. EAGLE reinforces the general aviation community’s commitment to an unleaded future, and in a safe and smart way that works for all the 200,000 aircraft in the GA fleet.

“I’ve often said that if this was an easy thing to do, it would have been done already,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “I am heartened that we have many people present and participating who represent virtually every aspect of the issue.”

The conference produced a consensus that aviation stakeholders need to improve communication with the public and help people understand the safety implications and other complex issues involved (see “Unleaded Fuels: Devil in the Details” p. 85) . Baker said EAGLE aims to build on years of study of various formulations of fuel and emphasized that the deadline is “no later than 2030,” and unleaded fuel replacements will be introduced as soon as they are proven safe and available.

“We understand the urgency,” Baker said.

“This meeting is doing exactly what it should be doing—getting different opinions and perspectives, to stay engaged and move forward,” said Avfuel’s president and CEO Craig Sincock.

Regulatory Affairs

What to do when an airport makes changes

By Mike Ginter, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy

New airport managers or boards commonly review airport policies after they begin their jobs. Policies in place for years or decades may be changed to improve the airport’s financial position or keep it in compliance with FAA grant requirements. These changes often spark a firestorm among local pilots. There is always a solution and AOPA advocacy helped pilots resolve more than 200 airport issues nationwide last year.

When things change, pilots understandably get upset. Sometimes change or the need for change is not conveyed in a timely fashion or the rationale for change is not clearly articulated and sometimes pilots react negatively. Most situations can be addressed amicably when both sides communicate effectively.

AOPA engages in all manner of airport issues on behalf of its members, including updates to minimum standards/airport rules, changes in lease policies, changes in airport access policy, and harsh enforcement measures. The solution usually involves getting the pilots and airport leadership talking (and listening) again. In almost every case, the airport management agrees to make a change requested by the pilots and the pilots gain a better understanding of the FAA requirements imposed on airport managers. In almost every case, our members gain a better understanding of the FAA Airport Compliance Manual, which governs airport managers at federally funded airports. In almost every case, we find an agreeable solution that puts the fun back in the airport experience.

What to do if you are having an issue at your airport? Let us help you navigate these complicated issues. Communication, as in most parts of life, can be the key. [email protected]

On the front lines

Airports in national parks

By Melissa McCaffrey, AOPA Western Pacific regional manager

There are several public-use airports operated by the National Park Service that provide general aviation access to park visitors and outdoor enthusiasts. These include Jackson Hole Airport, the only commercial service airport within a national park; McKinley National Park Airport in Alaska’s Denali National Park; and Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek airports, both located in California’s Death Valley National Park.

As the airport sponsor, the National Park Service must balance its requirement to maintain these airports with other critical infrastructure improvements in the parks. The Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells airports are in urgent need of runway rehabilitation, but the NPS budget is strained to meet all maintenance and improvement needs.

This funding challenge requires innovative solutions for these Death Valley airports to survive. AOPA worked closely with the NPS and the military to broker a proposed solution that would involve a training exercise of Navy and Marine Corps engineers to complete the runway improvements for a fraction of the cost. This win-win solution, if adopted, will work as it did in 2019 when the Marine Corps and Navy deployed to California’s Catalina Island Airport to repair the runway as part of the military’s Innovative Readiness Training program. [email protected]

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