It is unfortunate that wider notice was not given before the excellent “Advances in Alternate Aviation Fuels Workshop” that was put on by Airport Administrator Stelios Makrides and the Santa Monica Airport staff at the Jan. 26 Santa Monica Airport Commission meeting. Using existing contacts and referrals from the Santa Monica Airport Association, airport staff drew together a panel of experts that covered all fields and traveled from all parts of our country. Several of the panelists noted that it was good to get away from their unrelenting snow and visit our sunshine!
Four industry representatives made presentations. Dr. Phillip Fine of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) provided information on his agency’s Ground-level Ozone Challenge that aims use alternative fuels and other methods to substantially reduce NOX emissions at airports throughout Southern California.
Ellie Wood of the Boeing Company detailed her company’s efforts to reduce aircraft emissions worldwide utilizing a variety of alternative jet fuels combined with advances in aircraft and engine design.
AltAir Fuels’ president, Brian Sherbacow, discussed how his company has worked with our military for over 10 years to produce a molecularly identical bio-based jet fuel that can be a “drop-in” replacement for the current petroleum based Jet A. BioJet A has a 50-percent or greater reduction in ultra-fine particles and other pollutants and is expected to be commercially available this year. AltAir Fuels has been modifying a refinery in Paramount, California, to initially produce 40 million gallons of BioJet A per year and already has a multi-year commitment from United Airlines to purchase a minimum of 5 million gallons per year for use at LAX.
Finally, Chris D’Acosta, CEO of Swift Fuels, LLC, discussed his two variants of unleaded 100-octane avgas currently under testing in the FAA’s Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) program. This program is the culmination of years-long work and input from numerous public and private stakeholders charged with finding a way to safely replace lead in avgas. The intent is to produce a lead free fuel that meets the needs of the entire piston engine aviation fleet ranging from 60-year-old piston singles to the most modern multiengine aircraft. This is a scientifically complex process that must fully satisfy dozens of separate performance specifications in order to make a universal and safe replacement fuel.
The end result of the PAFI program will be a new American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) consensus standard that refiners can use to produce a replacement for our current 100LL fuel. Four different formulations are currently undergoing Stage 1 testing at FAA labs and the final fuels will be selected near the end of 2018. These fuels will be fully mixable with current leaded avgas and will allow fuel suppliers, airplane owners and operators to safely transition to the new fuel without having to make changes of any kind.
After the presentations, an extensive Q&A period followed where the presenters answered questions from the audience and from members of the Airport Commission. The PowerPoint presentations and summaries from each presenter are available on the Santa Monica Airport Commission’s web site at www.smgov.net/departments/airport/commission. Look under the Jan. 26 meeting date. The presentations are fast-paced and informative. You’ll come away with a much better understanding of how our airport is heading to a greener tomorrow.
The bottom line is that exciting, new green fuels are coming to Santa Monica Airport in the very near future. Years of scientific study and testing are finally paying off. It took almost 20 years to fully transition to unleaded automotive fuels. The transition to unleaded aviation fuels will happen over a much shorter time period. Thanks again to our Airport staff for presenting such an informative workshop.
Joe Bates is a Venice resident.