Grass roots effort thwarts fuel bill

When pilots in Washington State learned of legislation to require all automobile gas sold in the Evergreen State to contain ethanol, they went off like a stall warning horn.

The problem is that many aircraft have been modified through a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) to run on auto gas. Operating an airplane engine with auto fuel that has ethanol in it is illegal, as well as dangerous.

If all auto fuel was blended with ethanol, hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of planes would be grounded for lack of suitable fuel.

The Washington Pilot’s Association (WPA) quickly put the word out to its members about the pending legislation and asked them to contact their elected officials and educate them about the negative impact the legislation, as written, would have on the aviation community.

“We didn’t really have a sophisticated strategy to address this legislation. We relied on a grass roots effort that got the ear of local representatives wherever possible,” explains Jim Smith, WPA president. “Our representatives are generally pretty smart people. They realized that safety was an issue, and that we were not trying to ‘play politics.'”

Smith notes that the alarm also was raised by the Seaplane Pilots Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Apparently someone listened, notes Smith, because the bill was amended to require only a small percentage of gasoline sold in the state to be blended with ethanol.

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