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Keeping aviation fuel accessible while finding its alternative

Flying season is about to heat up.

While much of the South basks in a bit of warmth all year round, my friends in the Midwest and Northeast will soon shake off some of the frost and we’ll all take advantage of increasing daylight. As good flying weather rolls in and fly-in season picks up, it becomes all systems go. It is for me.

While the skies are becoming increasingly busy, this shared passion for flight comes with a shared responsibility to protect it. We all have a role to play in making sure that nothing gets in the way of this great pursuit of ours. We need to keep airports open and accessible, ensure that airport and FBO fees are transparent and fair, and protect access to airspace.

Central to our collective effort to protect our freedom to fly is making sure that aviation fuel remains accessible, no matter where you fly and what you fly.

As I am sure you know, general aviation is in the middle of a transition to a fully unleaded future. Progress is being made with some higher-octane unleaded fuels for the entire GA fleet. A major battle is being waged, however, with those airports and sponsors that want to impede our safe and smart transition by prematurely banning 100LL, which is needed to fly so many airplanes, including those that perform valuable missions like search and rescue, law enforcement, disaster relief, and agricultural support.

In my travels around the country, I’m often asked: “Will I be able to get the fuel I need to fly my airplane?”

From our standpoint, the answer is yes. It must be.

When it comes to supporting these important missions, AOPA has always been a hands-on organization, rolling up our sleeves on behalf of you and the entire GA community. We don’t just report on issues, we get involved.

Support doesn’t get more hands-on than what we have been doing with a Beechcraft Baron in Ada, Oklahoma.

You may have read about the twin-engine Baron we’ve been flying as a demonstration of unleaded fuel, to show the GA community that it is safe, effective, and as easy on the engine as 100LL. GAMI G100UL in the left tank, 100LL in the right.

Before I go any further, I need to thank our good friends and donors Greg Herrick and Dan Shewmaker for their tremendous support in allowing us to fly the Baron.

GAMI received supplemental type certificate authorization for use of its fuel, G100UL, in all piston airplanes in 2022 and has been working toward commercialization—the logistical requirements to get the fuel from formulation to your airport and tank.

Mind you, we don’t back one fuel or just one approval pathway—progress is also being made through the PAFI pathway. We support who will get us to the finish line, and we will fly with other fuels as they are authorized.

I was fortunate to take the Baron aloft for some time out of GAMI’s headquarters in Ada, and the engine just hummed. But it’s not just me in the flight deck. A few fellow AOPA pilots have taken the yoke and I’d like to share their thoughts on flying the Baron:

Mike Filucci, chief flight instructor: “Flying with the Baron has been no different than flying with 100LL. We’ve been monitoring instruments and CHT and EGT have all been normal, and the airplane has been performing just fine. I’m happy to be part of this project that will help us transition to all unleaded fuels.”

Dave Hirschman, editor at large: “The orange color is strange, and unleaded G100UL aviation fuel smells different than avgas. But perhaps the surprising part is that flying with G100UL is exactly the same. The AOPA Baron performs identically with G100UL feeding the left engine and avgas on the right side. The transition to GA’s unleaded future is underway, and the AOPA Baron seems to indicate there won’t be any reduction in aircraft performance.”

Luz Beattie, director of flight operations: “I’ve had an awesome opportunity to be part of this Baron project to demonstrate 100UL fuel. We ran the gamut of exercises and analysis to engine shutdown and start. Needless to say, all without a hiccup and no change in performance from 100LL to 100UL.”

So far, I’m happy to say it’s been blue skies with G100UL.

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Mark Baker

Mark Baker

Mark Baker is AOPA’s fifth president. He is a commercial pilot with single- and multiengine land and seaplane ratings and a rotorcraft rating.

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