Mother Jones reports on leaded avgas

One of the positive aspects of dealing with aviation fuels is that concerns are politically bi-partisan among pilots, the media and even among elected officials. A recent example of this is an article on leaded aviation fuel written by Sarah Zhang, a contributing writer for Mother Jones, a magazine that describes itself as “a news organization that specializes in investigative, political, and social justice reporting.”

Titled “Leaded Fuel Is a Thing of the Past—Unless You Fly a Private Plane”, Zhang’s article does a good job of covering the main issues of the debate surrounding the future of leaded aviation fuel.

She contacted your bloggers and other leading spokespeople on the issue, resulting in a balanced portrayal of the topic.

Since most of the non-flying public reacts with shock at the news of aviation’s continued use of a substance that was banned from vehicle use two decades ago, such articles are important to describe our unusual predicament and need for more time to find a solution that protects the environment, as well as the tens of thousands of jobs in our country tied to general aviation.


  1. Greg M says

    This is a problem that has continued much too long and hopefully is being addressed by some needed changes in the components of current leaded avgas.
    The politics and profits surrounding fuels including mogas are immense, and some individuals involved in either the status quo or change of current avgas, may very well have hidden agendas.
    For many years a particular group of scientists and propulsion engineers out of Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Indiana, have be working on a replacement fuel for the current (leaded) avgas. This company is Swift Fuel LLC. They are currently nearing the end of all required (and requested) testing. These tests have been done with the involvement of the ASTM, FAA, EPA, aircraft and engine manufactures including; Piper Aircraft, Cessna aircraft and Lycoming and Teledyne Continental aircraft engines. This is an UNLEADED, NO ETHANOL replacement for the current avgas. The time and costs of developing a replacement for avgas are staggering, but completion and marketing are expected before the end of 2013. This fuel does not require a petroleum base for production. It can (and will) be made from a non food feedstock.
    The other, possibly more important reason for Swift Fuel is the need to rid our country (and the World) of Ethanol. This could be done with Swift Fuel. The same Swift Fuel I have previously mentioned. Although Swift Fuel and ethanol are very different, their manufacturing is very similar. The existing infrastructure for ethanol can be used to manufacture Swift Fuel as a replacement additive in gasoline.
    Swift Fuel, as a gasoline additive instead of ethanol, is not hygroscopic. Water in your gasoline is what happens with ethanol and it take its toll on automobile engine components. Another major issue with ethanol is it currently uses corn as the feedstock for manufacturing. Again, the change to Swift Fuel would use the existing infrastructure; (without corn) from the farmer growing a non-food feedstock, to the refineries manufacturing Swift Fuel, to transportation, to the marketing and the dispensing at the pump of the(unleaded/non-ethanol) gasoline with the Swift Fuel additive. Same infrastructure! This will increase our availability of more renewable fuels and decrease using food for fuel.
    With large quantities of Swift Fuel being produced as a replacement for ethanol, the same fuel would be in aircraft that is in your auto gas, thus lowering the cost of Swift Fuel avgas (and the cost of flying) as well as no more ethanol issues in mogas! This is a win-win for all!
    I believe most of the general public has no knowledge of the change that can and will take place and solve the lead and ethanol issues. Swift Fuel can also further reduce the need to import foreign oil. And BTW; Swift Fuel is a much cleaner burning fuel than any other current auto or aviation fuel. If you go to their website, you will see much more on the subject.
    Swift Enterprises website: http://WWW.swiftenterprises.Com

    • Bryan says

      Right, “end of 2013” now ? We have been hearing this BS for about twenty years. Miracle fuel after miracle fuel after miracle fuel is always “just around the corner”.


      How ’bout we just certify 91 No lead which 85% of the GA fleet can burn right now. It is not hard to produce, (the Europeans do it), it would end the costly “boutique fuel” distribution system we pay for now because it could be transported in the same trucks as unleaded auto fuel, and it would get the “friends of the earth” off our backs. Sure 15% percent of aircraft owners would need an STC for water injection, (or, gasp, ethanol injection), or a lower mechanical compression ratio to burn it and that costs money. But how many billion dollars have we spent on $6 gallon 100LL and for how many more years will we continue this silliness?

      To bad “our” alphabet organizations have become little more than schills for big oil…

  2. says

    John is right on with his evaluation of he danger in leaded avgas, based on a historical perspective. There exists a host of pop hit, new gen diseases; such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Hyperactivity, Autism, CO2 poisoning, Planetary death due to plastc bags, asbestos…and on….and on. These exculpatory, feel good by blaming someone else techniques have become the zitsen leben of the late 21st and early 22nd century zetgeist.

    Where will it all lead?

    Ciao, Philip

  3. John says

    The idea that lead in avgas is causing behavioral issues in children is voodoo science at best. If this is to be believed then every child from 1900 to the 1980’s should have had serious issues. Afterall, lead was in all auto gas and house paint during that time. Since this was not the case, perhaps we should look elsewhere for the cause of behavioral issue. Lack of parenting and over medication might be good places to start.

    • Dan VanderMeer says

      The epidemiological, medical, and toxicological studies published over the past three decades provide overwhelming scientific evidence of the neurotoxicity of lead- particularly in children. And additionally, the effects are not dose dependent. In other words some children who are exposed to low levels of lead have serious brain damage. We pilots should strongly support efforts to find a practical substitute for leaded av gas. Continuing to ignore science and and prudent public health protections make us appear self-entitled and ignorant.

      • says

        Dan VanderMeer, from my reading, believe you are right. Love healthy, well behaved children as well as flying. Checkout Great big if, they are doing as they claim, many things will be better.

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