OREM, Utah (ABC4) — The Utah Valley University’s School of Aviation Sciences is becoming the first school in the nation to convert fully to unleaded fuel, according to a press release.
UVU’s flight school is taking an unprecedented move by moving completely to unleaded fuel, a concept still “in the early adoption phase” for aircraft. Their first shipment of unleaded fuel arrived last week.
The university explained that piston-engine aircraft, as opposed to cars that have used unleaded fuel for 50 years, require “a higher-octane fuel, which requires a lead additive.” However, they partnered with a fuel research and development company called Swift Fuels to use a lead-free alternative designed for aircraft.
Piston-engine aircraft usually carry 2-10 passengers, making them ideal for aviation schools, as opposed to commercial flights which do not operate on leaded fuel, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Not all piston-engine aircraft are able to use the newly developed product, however, UVU’s 25 planes are all compatible with unleaded fuel.
The unleaded fuel, called UL94, is expected to reduce maintenance costs as cleaner fuel causes fewer issues with the engine, according to UVU Director of Aviation Maintenance John James. It also is a more environment-friendly option.
Another benefit of unleaded fuel is improving safety and health conditions for employees who handle the fuel, by reducing their exposure to lead, according to UVU Aviation Operations Supervisor Nick Marsh.
The president of the National Air Transportation Association, which has a goal to reduce lead emissions, said he “is proud” of UVU’s leadership in this transition.
“As an academic facility and early adopter of UL94, UVU has an opportunity to be among the first to educate the industry on flying with environmentally friendly aviation fuels,” NATA President and CEO Curt Castagna said.
The EPA is currently investigating the effects of leaded fuel used in aircraft engines. The agency released a proposed finding last year saying lead emissions likely lead to air pollution which “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health and welfare.” The final findings are expected to be released this year.