The FAA is investigating ongoing safety issues at two airports operated by Santa Clara County in California, including a planned ban of 100LL fuel starting Jan. 1, 2022.
In a strongly worded letter to the county, agency officials said the FAA is considering possible violations of federal law.
Aviation advocacy groups, as well as local pilots and airport-based businesses, have shown that the 100LL ban carries significant safety risks as it does not provide a safe transition to unleaded fuel.
In the letter, the FAA said it “strongly recommends that the county take action to suspend the effective date of its ban on leaded gas at the county-owned airports until this matter can be resolved.”
Since the FAA has received multiple complaints from airport tenants and users, along with a group who allege violations of grant assurances at Reid-Hillview Airport (KRHV) and San Martin Airport (E16), the agency is starting an “informal” investigation under 14 CFR part 13 (“Reports of Violations”).
The FAA has also shortened the response time for the county to 20 days, as it does when “circumstances require expedited handling of a particular case or controversy.”
“The FAA finds that expedited handling of this matter is required because it appears the county will be banning the sale of leaded aviation fuel at both airports after Dec. 31, 2021. Further, the county is apparently refusing to offer long-term leases for all tenants at Reid-Hillview airport whose leases will expire on Dec. 31, 2021, including the fixed base operators (FBOs) who provide aviation fuel. Accordingly, the FAA has shortened the response period,” the letter reads.
“The FAA is committed to building a sustainable aviation system and a lead-free future, and the agency will work with the county to achieve this shared goal,” the letter continues. “However, in the interim, all parties must adhere to grant assurances. Therefore, the FAA strongly recommends that the county take action to suspend the effective date of its ban on leaded gas at the county-owned airports until this matter can be resolved.”
The FAA cited a list of relevant complaints as a basis for its investigation, including “the failure to address a significant number of significant safety concerns which have been enumerated in detail to the county via letters from the FAA. The county is on notice with regard to these serious safety concerns and the issues remain unresolved.”
In all, the FAA is investigating eight potential violations by the county.
You can read the full letter from the FAA to the Santa Clara County Airports Administration here.