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GA pilots help bring unleaded fuel to Reid-Hillview Airport

Indiana-based Swift Fuels made its first delivery of 7,000 gallons of UL94 over the weekend, the first of a planned steady stream of shipments to the Santa Clara County airport.

“With this delivery, we’re hopeful that Reid-Hillview will be recognized as a leader among California airports in demonstrating our commitment to safety, community health, and the environment,” said John McGowan, founding board member of Community and Airport Partnership for Safe Operation (CAAPSO), a nonprofit partnership dedicated to securing the future of Reid-Hillview airport. CAAPSO is also a chapter of the California Pilots Association.

“We understand any lead is harmful,” McGowan added. “We are glad to be taking this step toward eliminating lead at this airport and we hope to accelerate the growing push by the aviation community and others to completely eliminate all lead from aviation fuel.”

The move also immediately addresses concerns that local communities and elected officials have about legacy aviation fuel.

“Our aviation community is all about solutions and introducing the unleaded fuel at Reid-Hillview is emblematic of this commitment to the region,” said Walt Gyger, president of Trade Winds Aviation, a flight school and aircraft sales company based at Reid-Hillview. “The unleaded fuel burns cleaner and more efficiently, and it’s a win-win for our neighbors in the community.”

Swift Fuels has received FAA certification for its unleaded fuel to be safely used in more than 1,800 models of GA aircraft. The fuel has been in volume production for more than six years and requires no modifications to aircraft or engines for those airplanes approved to use it.

UL94 fuel will be appropriate for many—but not all—types of aircraft. Those with higher compression engines require fuel with a higher octane rating. To that end, the GA industry has partnered with the FAA in establishing the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, aimed at reaching the goal of a safe and viable unleaded avgas that could replace 100LL, and maintain the utility of the existing fleet of GA aircraft. There are several fuels being evaluated as potential replacement candidates.

During a politically charged and heavily attended meeting of the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors the day after the event, a 5-0 vote directed county administration to take any necessary actions to expeditiously eliminate lead exposure from operations at Reid-Hillview airport. Those actions include, but are not limited to, both prohibiting the sale or use of leaded fuel and pursuing all available paths to early closure of the airport prior to 2031; a date the board already set to close the airport pending expiration of FAA grant assurances.

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