GAMA Chief Criticizes FAA-Santa Clara MoU

 - February 24, 2023, 11:05 AM
GAMA chairman Eric Hinson (left) and president and CEO Pete Bunce celebrated growth in general aviation deliveries and billings during 2022 while warning about issues that could affect the industry in the coming year. (Photo: Matt Thurber/AIN)

GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce believes the aviation industry is facing a new wave of threats of airport closures because local communities are using leaded avgas as an excuse to curtail general aviation activities.

At the annual General Aviation Manufacturers Association State of the Industry event on Wednesday, Bunce summarized the status of the FAA and industry Eliminate Aviation Gas Lead Emissions (Eagle) initiative, which was launched at last year’s GAMA meeting. He also talked about a recent memorandum of understanding (MoU) between California’s Santa Clara County and the FAA that addressed issues raised by the county’s ban on leaded 100LL avgas at Reid-Hillview and San Martin airports and what appear to be efforts to close Reid-Hillview.

Although GAMI’s G100UL unleaded avgas has received FAA STC approval, it is awaiting large-scale production and distribution. “We have to be able to produce it and distribute it,” Bunce said, “and make the price acceptable. And the price is not going to be as cheap as avgas right now. If you produce it in just one part of the country, the distribution problem alone starts to drive up costs tremendously.”

The Eagle initiative’s goal is to have a replacement for 100LL avgas by 2030. While G100UL is FAA approved and could be produced fairly easily, it lacks compliance with the ATSM standard that applies to aviation fuel. “We have that [ASTM approval] for jet fuel, we have that for avgas right now,” Bunce said. “Without that standard out there and that flag on it, we may not have all producers being able to produce it.”

As for the MoU, he added, “A lot of communities are using this issue to close airports. Pure and simple. They’ve been trying to close Reid-Hillview for years and years. And when they couldn’t do it on noise, they tried to starve the airport [of fuel]. And we’ve got other communities around the country that are doing the same.

“That MoU is full of holes and it doesn’t have any teeth to it,” Bunce concluded. “The MoU that they negotiated with the [county] basically says, ‘You’re going to maintain [the airport] and you’re going to invest in it.’ Yeah, right. Watch it. There’s no accountability in there and, oh by the way, they don’t want to take any more money from the federal government, so they’re just going to run the clock out.”