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General Aviation's Avgas Problem: Low Lead to No Lead?

by Sarina Houston 1. September 2014 15:01
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The general aviation industry is searching for an alternative for 100 low lead avgas (100LL). But it is really necessary?

By now we all know that human exposure to lead is unhealthy – most commonly, exposure to lead causes neurological problems in children and cardiovascular problems in adults. We’ve probably all made sure that our walls weren’t once painted with leaded paint and our lead pipes aren’t corroding and contaminating our drinking water. But have you considered that general aviation aircraft operations are the main source of lead pollution today? Those who work in and around small piston aircraft might be exposed to harmful lead pollution – and the EPA and FAA are ready to do something about it.

“Emissions of lead from piston-engine aircraft using leaded avgas comprise approximately half of the national inventory of lead emitted to air,” claims the EPA. The organization estimates that about 41,000 tons of lead from avgas was emitted between 1970 and 2007. And, According to an EPA factsheet, the concentration of lead in the air increases near general aviation airports due to the use of 100LL fuel.

But our air quality is fine, right? And people have been using 100LL for years without adverse health affects…right? This might be true, but general aviation’s lead problem, while seemingly minor, is not a small problem at all.

Lead emitted from general aviation flight operations not only pollutes the air in and around airports, but it’s capable of traveling great distances before accumulating on the ground and in ground water. And, because there is no level of lead that is said to be safe when it comes to human exposure, the EPA and other environmental groups are pushing for the aviation community to adopt a lead-free fuel.

While many in the industry agree that it’s time to make the switch to an alternative fuel, others aren’t quite sure it’ll be worth the price. To the author’s knowledge, there have been no studies regarding the amount of lead in humans that work or live around general aviation airports, nor has there been any actual emissions testing on aircraft that operate with 100LL fuel. The EPA and other organizations have assumed that the hazard exists based on the amount of lead in avgas, and the fact that avgas is the only leaded fuel out there, leaving some people wondering if the problem even exists at all.

Regardless of the lack of information, the FAA has declared its agreement with the EPA and is taking steps toward a lead-free future, noting that general aviation aircraft are the only type of fuel-burning transportation that still uses leaded fuel.

In July 2014, the FAA received nine proposals for alternative fuels that would replace 100LL avgas, including proposals from Afton Chemical Company, Avgas LLC, Shell, Swift Fuels, BP, TOTAL, and Hjelmco. For the next few years, the FAA will be testing and evaluating these fuels during a two-phase, six million dollar per year program called the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI). They hope to have a solution that satisfies the entire general aviation fleet of 100LL users by December 2018.

As an aircraft owner, you might not be worried about air quality around airports or exposure to lead through your own piston aircraft use. But the transition to lead-free fuel is happening, and the bigger problem here is that an alternative fuel will affect all 100LL users in the not-so-distant future. Before long, aircraft owners could be faced with buying a new engine or at the very least, a certification process for a new fuel type. While the FAA hopes to find a fuel that will keep all aircraft flying, there is bound to be a cost associated with keeping 100LL aircraft in the air in the post-100LL days. And if you thought today’s avgas is expensive, a new type will probably cost even more.

Diesel might be the way to go, after all.

What are your thoughts? Is the creation of a lead-free fuel a necessary step into the future for GA, or have environmentalist organizations created a problem that doesn’t really exist? Comment and let us know!

FAA Takes a More Sensible Approach to First-Time, Inadvertent TFR Violations

by Greg Reigel 27. August 2014 14:59
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The FAA recently amended its enforcement guidelines for dealing with airmen who violate temporary flight restriction ("TFR") airspace. In the past, when the FAA alleged that an airman violated a TFR, and the incident was a first-time, inadvertent violation by the airman, that airman would receive a Notice of Proposed Certificate Action ("Notice") proposing suspension of his or her airman certificate for 30 days for violation of a variety of regulations. This was the FAA's "shoot from the hip", no questions asked approach. And once the Notice was issued, the FAA conceded very little, if anything, from that 30 day suspension.

Now, however, it appears the FAA may have recognized that this approach wasn't necessarily the best way of dealing with these types of violations. In June of this year, the FAA amended Order 2150.3(b), the FAA's compliance and enforcement program, to change its approach to dealing with first-time, inadvertent TFR violators. According to the FAA, it is modifying its policy to provide more flexibility in dealing with TFR violators with the intent of reducing "the number of violations occurring in security airspace by using remedial training in appropriate circumstances to prevent repeated inadvertent violations." I'm not sure why it took the FAA this long to figure out that remedial training might be a better alternative to a suspension, but better late than never, I guess.

Under the amended guidelines, the FAA will apply the following sanction policy to TFR violations:

  1. A single, first-time, inadvertent violation will result in a 30 day suspension EXCEPT in circumstances involving:

    1. Inadvertent, first-time violations resulting from aircraft intruding one mile or less into the security airspace and then turning and exiting directly when there are no resulting complications for air traffic control or other aircraft; or

    2. Inadvertent, first time violations resulting from aircraft briefly (two minutes or less) squawking a 1200 code or failing to squawk an assigned discrete code, in security airspace that requires the aircraft to squawk a discrete code when there are no resulting complications for air traffic control or other aircraft.

    3. In situations 1(a) and (b), the FAA will use remedial training, assuming the airman has no prior history of violations. This means the airman would receive a warning letter, remedial training and the airman would not have a finding of violation placed in his or her airman record. (In my opinion, a more appropriate response to this type of situation rather than preventing an airman from staying current and competent by suspending his or her airman certificate, as was the case in the past.)
  2. A new inadvertent violation and a history of 1 prior inadvertent TFR violation will result in a 45 to 90 day suspension of the airman's certificate.

  3. A new inadvertent violation and a history of 2 prior inadvertent TFR violations will result in a 90 to 150 day suspension of the airman's certificate.

  4. A new inadvertent violation and a history of 3 or more inadvertent TFR violations will result in revocation of the airman's certificate.

  5. If the facts and circumstances surrounding the TFR violation call into question the qualifications of the airman, the FAA may also issue the airman a request for re-examination under 49 U.S.C. § 44709 (a "709 Ride").

  6. Intentional TFR violations or "aggravated" violations (which isn't defined or explained in the amended policy) will result in revocation of the airman's certificate.

Unfortunately, informal counseling, whether oral or written, is not a permitted alternative for the FAA to deal with TFR violations. However, at least now the FAA has the option of remedial training to educate, rather than punish, inadvertent violators. Of course, this amended policy begs the question of what constitutes an "inadvertent" violation. Depending upon the FAA's interpretation of "inadvertent", which in the past hasn't always been the most reasonable, the amended policy may be for naught.

But the amended policy definitely appears to be a step in the right direction. Hopefully, this more enlightened approach, and the voice of reason, will prevail in the future. In any event, airmen should continue to check for NOTAMS, understand the scope of any TFR NOTAMS issued for their route of flight, obtain appropriate flight service briefings and updates, and either avoid TFRs or comply with the applicable requirements for operation within the TFR.

Fly smart and stay safe.

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Greg Reigel

National Aviation Day: A Look Back at Aviation through the Years

by Sarina Houston 18. August 2014 09:43
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Photo: Library of Congress

August 19th is National Aviation Day, a day on which many of us involved in aviation reflect on the past, present and future of our industry. Since it's the past that got us to where we are today - an aviation industry focused on innovation and technology - this year on National Aviation Day, take time to consider how far the aviation industry has come. From the earliest balloons to the Boeing 747, and from the Wright Brothers to the F-35, here are a few aviation highlights that will take you back in time.

Early Flight
Birds and Balloons - Before airplanes, scientists were studying birds, balloons, and other flying contraptions. According to the Library of Congress, the first kite was invented as early as 1000 B.C. in China. The Chinese later used kites to measure distances and for reconnaissance. As kites and other flying wings were being developed during this time, Leonardo Da Vinci was studying the flight of birds and developing designs for flying machines. Balloons became popular in the 1700s, after the Montgolfier brothers powered the first balloon flights.

The First Fixed Wing Aircraft - Balloons were no match for Sir George Cayley, also known as the Father of the Aeroplane, who first noticed and recorded the four forces of flight. Cayley also design the first fixed-wing aircraft and was perhaps the first modern engineer, researching and recording the first theories about stability & control and wing dihedral.

Langley vs. Gustav Whitehead vs. the Wright Brothers - In the early 1900s, Samuel Langley was designing and building the first airplanes with a grant from the U.S. government. Langley was unsuccessful, and during the same time, the Wright brothers successfully made the first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Later, witnesses would claim the Gustav Whitehead had actually successfully completed the first manned flight in 1901, two years before the Wright brothers, but his flight are unrecognized due to lack of proof.

Going the Distance
The 1900s brought considerable advancements in aviation. With two world wars, competition was heavy, bringing many "firsts" in aviation and rapid progression.

Crossing the English Channel - 1909 brought the first crossing the English Channel by a heavier-than-air aircraft - a simple monoplane piloted by aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot.

US Airmail - In 1911, the U.S. started using aircraft for air mail. In 1911, the first U.S. airmail flight occurred. Many more would follow, and in 1914, with World War I about to being, The Benoist Company started the first scheduled passenger airline service between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida.

Crossing the Atlantic - In 1919, the infamous Vickers Vimy made the first nonstop Atlantic crossing while the military developed bombers and fighter aircraft. Charles Lindbergh completed the first flight solo nonstop Atlantic crossing in 1927, becoming an aviation legend.

Barnstomers
The post-World War I era brought a surplus of inexpensive aircraft - specifically the Curtis JN-4 "Jenny" - to the civilian world, and people started flying these airplanes around to give rides and performing air show type stunts. These "barnstormers" as they were named, operated out of fields and traveled frequently.

Modern Flight
Post- World War I and World War II brought even more advancements, like instrument flight, jet engines, supersonic flight and a trip to the moon!

First Instrument Flight-In 1929, Jimmy Doolittle took off, flew and landed without any outside references. Doolittle is also credited with discovering the visual and motion limitations involved with instrument flight, including the idea of trusting the instruments over bodily sensations.

Jet Engines, Supersonic Flight and Moon Landings - The 1930s brought us the first practical jet aircraft - the HE-178 Heinkel - and Chuck Yeager's legendary flight that broke the sound barrier for the first time. By the 1970s, Boeing was making the 747 and the first Concorde entered service, capable of supersonic flight from New York to London in just less than three hours - incredible by anyone's account. And do you think Sir George Cayley or the Wright brothers have ever imagined we'd land on the moon in 1969?

While the supersonic transport aircraft industry didn't take off, today's technology is amazing, nonetheless. With airliners like the A380, capable of transporting over 800 passengers, stealth technology found in the B-2 Bomber and now the F-35, composite materials and electric powered aircraft, the aviation industry continues to advance in fascinating ways.

This year on National Aviation Day, what part of aviation history will you remember and celebrate?

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Aviation Technology | Flying | News | Sarina Houston

Landmark Aviation Completes Acquisition of Ross Aviation

by Ray Robinson 11. August 2014 11:51
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Image Courtesy Landmark Aviation

(Houston, TX – August 1, 2014) Landmark Aviation has completed the acquisition of Ross Aviation, a network of fixed based operations located throughout the United States.

Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, Ross Aviation operates in major cities and resort destinations within the U.S., including Denver (BJC), Santa Fe (SAF), Miami (OPF), and six locations in Hawaii. The acquisition has increased the size of Landmark’s network from 57 to 75 locations globally.

“We are very excited to welcome these 18 locations into our network,” stated President and CEO Dan Bucaro. “They are geographically a good fit with their strength in the west and Hawaii. We also look forward to building strong relationships with the various airport authorities and being active in each of those communities.”

The Ross locations will begin operating under the Landmark Aviation brand immediately.

About Landmark Aviation

Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Landmark Aviation operates a network of fixed base operations located throughout the U.S., and in Canada and Western Europe. The Company offers a wide range of services, including FBO, MRO, charter and management. Landmark is a portfolio company of The Carlyle Group. For more information, visit www.landmarkaviation.com.

About The Carlyle Group

The Carlyle Group (NASDAQ: CG) is a global alternative asset manager with over $199 billion of assets under management. Carlyle's purpose is to invest wisely and create value. Carlyle invests across four segments – Corporate Private Equity, Real Assets, Global Market Strategies and Fund of Funds Solutions – in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America. Carlyle has expertise in various industries, including: aerospace, defense & government services, consumer & retail, energy, financial services, healthcare, industrial, technology & business services, telecommunications & media and transportation. The Carlyle Group employs 1,600 people in 38 offices across six continents.

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Aviation Fuel | Fixed Based Operators (FBO) | Airports | News | Press Release

New FAA Hangar Policy Draft: Much Confusion in GA Community

by GlobalAir.com 8. August 2014 17:21
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EAA asking FAA to recognize all homebuilding activity

August 7, 2014 - Two weeks after the FAA unveiled its draft policy for allowed uses in hangars at airports that receive federal grant funding, much confusion has emerged regarding the overall effect of the policy and what it means for hangar tenants. That’s particularly true for homebuilders, who have heard conflicting stories about what it means for building an aircraft in an airport hangar.

“EAA headquarters has heard from many people with concerns about the possible effects of the FAA’s draft hangar policy, and we’re happy to give them the facts and encourage them to comment on the policy prior to the September 5 deadline,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety. “Unfortunately, some of what is being spread is based on faulty information from inaccurate reports and chatter. That is lending to the confusion on the issue.”

For homebuilders, the draft policy offers protections that never existed in an FAA policy. For the first time, aircraft construction is included as a protected aeronautical activity. Previously, homebuilders had no protection from airports that demanded only fully operating aircraft could be housed in hangars.

“This is a major step forward because it nationally recognizes homebuilding as an aeronautical activity, which it never was previously, even if it was allowed at an individual airport,” Elliott said. “Most homebuilders probably don’t realize that FAA has never recognized homebuilding as a protected aeronautical activity. Now that will change.

“However, we do not agree with the draft language regarding final assembly stipulations. EAA will ask the FAA to consider all active aircraft construction as an aeronautical activity. We believe any type of active homebuilding meets the standard of aeronautical activity and EAA will fight for that language.”

EAA members can do two things to help themselves and the homebuilt community: First, be informed by reading the policy draft and comment before September 5. Also, fully read and understand your airport’s hangar rental agreement to prevent any future disputes over what is allowed at your airport.

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Fixed Based Operators (FBO) | Press Release





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