As reported this week by Flying, the EPA has issued its findings on lead emissions it has been monitoring the past two years at 17 airports across the country. For pilots in Southern California and the Bay area, the news was not good: “The EPA’s findings from airports where the testing was carried out indicate that airports in California — McClellan-Palomar Airport in San Diego County and San Carlos Airport in San Mateo County — exceeded lead air quality standards. A third airport in California, Palo Alto Airport, was only slightly below the legal threshold for airborne lead emissions.”
Managers of these airports are now under even more pressure than in the past to deal with this public relations dilemma. The Silicon Valley’s Mercury News was quick to ask San Carlos airport manager Gretchen Kelly for comment on the EPA’s findings: “We have monitors on the airport that are measuring zero … and that’s where people are.” The article continues: “Kelly said she will gladly sell unleaded fuel the minute it’s approved by the FAA.”
Perhaps one of our readers based at San Carlos can inform Kelly that the FAA first approved lead-free mogas as an aviation fuel 31 years ago.
Last year your bloggers commissioned a study of the FAA’s aircraft registry that showed that more than 80% of all piston engine aircraft can operate safely and legally on mogas. We also estimate that these 80% would consume approximately half of all the fuel sold for piston engine aircraft since that is what has been documented to be the case in Europe, where mogas is widely available at airports. For the remaining 20% that currently require avgas, the new INPULSE water injection system allows essentially any of these aircraft to operate on premium mogas. FAA approved STCs already exist for many models of the Baron, C210 and C188 aircraft with others possible upon demand.
With the recent announcement of Airworthy Autogas, based in Phoenix, Arizona, there is now a serious supplier of aviation-grade mogas in the U.S. Airports selling mogas now can be found on this list and map from your blogger, Dean Billing.
The news from the EPA does not have to mean the end of flying for piston-engine aircraft at the affected airports. It might just provide the needed motivation for the expanded use of mogas into the western states, not only reducing lead emissions, but also lowering the cost of flying.
With lower costs will come more flying activity and potential increase in overall revenues to the many aviation-related businesses that are suffering due to lack of flying activity.
Let’s hope that this will be the silver lining to the dark clouds created by the EPA’s findings.