Despite significant challenges, AOPA has been strong and steady. The association has continued to produce award-winning content, lobby effectively at the highest levels, encourage and support the future of our industry, and offer an ever-increasing suite of benefits for its members. The staff has remained firmly committed to the mission, and members have emphatically continued to support their efforts.
The United States can boast the world’s most vibrant aviation industry, with the largest and most passionate group of pilots, many active landing facilities and support, and an unparalleled manufacturing base. None of that should be taken for granted. Numerous challenges are on the horizon, both big and small. Advocacy is a core AOPA mission, and we will be there to protect your freedom to fly, whether it’s advocating for state tax relief or guiding our unleaded future.
The time has come for all of us to rally around a future of unleaded fuel in aviation. AOPA has been active in the transition to unleaded fuel for years, and together with industry and government partners, is pushing for a safe, rapid, and orderly move away from 100LL.
Earlier this year, AOPA and its partners announced EAGLE (Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions), an initiative that seeks to have one viable drop-in unleaded fuel in place by 2030 (see “AOPA Action,” p. 14). While that may seem like a long time in the future, the challenges are immense. Numerous steps are involved with developing, testing, certifying, and deploying a single fleet-wide replacement fuel in that timeframe. But together, and with the support of our members, we know it’s possible.
Q: How is EAGLE different from previous unleaded efforts, such as the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) process?
A: Unlike the PAFI program, the EAGLE initiative brings together all stakeholders from industry and government agencies, with a focus on obtaining and distributing a high-octane unleaded fuel as quickly as possible—and no later than 2030. PAFI was established to develop testing procedures and conduct testing of high-octane unleaded fuel candidates.
Q: Why is it so difficult to move away from leaded fuel?
A: Lead in aviation gasoline protects engines from detonation by increasing the fuel’s octane. Detonation can lead to catastrophic engine failure. An unleaded fuel formula must have a chemical makeup that provides detonation protection. GAMI’s G100UL is the first high-octane unleaded avgas to be FAA-approved via a supplemental type certificate (STC) for specific makes and models of aircraft, and other fuel providers, large and small, continue to work toward a solution for the entire GA fleet.
Q: Why can’t we just use mogas?
A: Substituting mogas was evaluated early on in the unleaded avgas industry effort, about 30-plus years ago, and it was determined that many properties important for aviation safety are not adequately controlled for in mogas. In some states, regulations don’t even require mogas to meet the existing mogas specifications. Also, mogas and avgas are rated on different octane scales; that gives us more than a 10-octane number gap between what mogas offers and the required octane for 70 percent of avgas demand.
Q: GAMI appears to have a viable unleaded fuel. Why aren’t we all just lining up behind them and pushing this through faster?
A: AOPA supports all pathways to attaining an unleaded high-octane aviation gasoline for the general aviation fleet of nearly 200,000 aircraft. GAMI’s G100UL has STCs for over 600 different types of piston-engine aircraft, but approval by the FAA for the entire high-compression engine fleet is not yet in hand. Beyond having an approved fuel, the industry has to work out the logistics of producing the fuel in volume, as well as transporting, storing, and dispensing unleaded high-octane aviation gasoline. The EAGLE effort will address these issues, as well.
Q: Do you think EAGLE, with its mix of industry and the FAA, will be enough to thwart more premature moves away from avgas like we’ve seen in California?
A: The FAA and industry are working to address this, and it is a high priority. Some airports are moving unilaterally and prematurely to ban 100LL, and thereby creating a safety threat to pilots and preventing some emergency and rescue aircraft from staging there. Premature leaded avgas bans impede efforts to develop a safe and smart transition to our future unleaded fuel. We hope that a combination of wisdom and foresight can reverse these initiatives while the best and brightest chemists and engineers in the world work to develop a viable unleaded fuel solution.
Q: Am I going to have to make modifications to my airplane?
A: The ultimate goal is an unleaded avgas that does not require modifications to aircraft or engines. And it is my understanding that current candidate fuels are not expected to require modifications.
Q: Will I have to pay more for an unleaded fuel?
A: We believe unleaded avgas formulations will cost the same or slightly more to manufacture. The price at the pump, however, is influenced by many factors. Unleaded fuels will allow more fuel blenders to compete in the marketplace, potentially placing downward pressure on price at the pump, but it is too early to tell for sure until fuel development is completed and fuel distribution costs are better known.
Advocacy efforts such as a safe and efficient transition away from 100LL are a common thread that runs through everything AOPA does for general aviation, including our efforts to attract a new generation of passionate aviators, and support those who currently fly.
Keeping aviation affordable has been a pillar of the association since its founding in 1939. It remains a key priority today. Keeping taxes low in the states, pushing back on user fees, working with the FAA to bring less expensive equipment into our cockpits, and supporting aircraft certification reform are just a few of the many ways that AOPA advocates for broader access to aviation. We must also entice new pilots, show them the passion and value of aviation, and support their journeys.
AOPA’s You Can Fly initiative is a consolidated slate of resources and programs that seeks to grow and strengthen the pilot community. Its many efforts are contained in four pillars.
We work tirelessly to offer a wide range of helpful and valuable benefits for our members, whether that means saving you money on car rentals, helping you plan flights, guiding your medical certificate applications through the FAA’s process, or creating fun stories and videos to enjoy flying even when you’re not in the cockpit. Here are just a few of the many ways you can utilize your membership:
Advocacy: No organization is more effective at defending your freedom to fly than AOPA.
Media: Keeping you informed and in touch with the ever-changing world of general aviation.
Tools and resources: All the tools and resources you need to navigate your way to the best and safest flying experience possible.
Be a safer pilot: A good pilot is always learning. We want good pilots in the skies.
Get connected to pilots: Share the passion with like-minded individuals.
Pilot services: We offer great rates on quality aviation products and services to keep you flying.
Programs and perks: AOPA members enjoy exclusive savings, programs, and special offers.
*Pilot Protection Services available with upgraded membership levels