I got my general aviation pilot’s license close to 40 years ago and haven’t flown since – couldn’t afford it then, don’t need it now – but recently I learned something that I should have known all along: I was flying with leaded gasoline!
While commercial jets use what is basically kerosene as fuel, small planes still use special aviation gasoline (“avgas”) that has lead in it, even though leaded gasoline in passenger cars in 1996. Small aircraft were exempt because there was no “operationally safe, suitable replacement,” per the Federal Aviation Administration.
Now there is, it seems. The FAA recently approved a fuel developed by General Aviation Modifications (GAMI), for use across the general aviation fleet without any major modifications needed by engines or aircraft. GAMI is scaling up production of the fuel, called G100UL, by licensing production and distribution. It’s going to be used in California first and Concord Municipal Airport manager Dave Rolla says it will be a while before we see it: “We plan to provide this fuel as it becomes available for us to purchase through our fuel source, Titan Aviation Fuels. The information available to us right now is that in the Northeast US, mass production and distribution of unleaded aviation gasoline is still 2-3 years out.”
Getting lead out of gasoline was a major public-health win. It’s kind of weird that we still have it in our little airplanes.