Guest opinion: Harry Ross: Boulder airport must make unleaded fuel available, encourage its adoption

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By Harry Ross

Boulder’s natural beauty and forward-thinking policies make this a wonderful place to live. We are also very fortunate to have local knowledge, skills and resources that allow us to be agile and keep pace with an ever-changing world.

Every child (and adult) deserves to live in a safe and danger-free environment. Every day we expose ourselves to many risks, known and unknown, some of which we can control, some of which we cannot. Lead is both a known and controllable hazard, which can and should be addressed now.

Environmental lead is a well-known hazard. Long-known sources include lead-containing paint from pre-1970s homes, water pipes, imported contaminated cosmetics/additives, ammunition, backsoil levels, certain manufacturing activities/hobbies, and even dark chocolate. In addition to this long list, the EPA recently identified older leaded aviation fuel as a concern. This fuel is used in most piston-powered aircraft at small airports around the world, including Boulder Airport/KBDU.

Colorado Department of Public Health He closely monitors lead poisoning and exposure in the state. The reassuring news is that despite the dangers and our airport, Boulder’s lead levels are less than half the state average, and best of all, no confirmed/recorded elevated levels have been found in our children.

Although this is encouraging, leaded aviation fuel cannot be prevented, it must be avoided and there are simple solutions. In the year By 2022, the FAA has certified, and filters 94UL, fully unleaded aviation fuel to be used in 70% of small piston aircraft. In the next few years, 100UL, a universal fully unleaded fuel will be released which can be used in all piston aircraft. What do we do in the meantime?

• Acceptance of 94UL at Boulder Airport faces three hurdles:

• The airport needs a special storage tank which it doesn’t currently have (as a bonus it could use 100UL tanks in the future).

• Each aircraft must obtain a one-time Supplemental Type Certificate (STC).
94UL costs more than current leaded fuel.

The above are not technical or legal barriers, only financial. Used or new fuel tank systems can be purchased and installed for anywhere between $75,000-$140,000. Temporary systems used until 100UL is achieved can be implemented for less than $25,000. STC cost $100-$200 per aircraft. The price difference between low leaded and unleaded fuel is about 20%. Centennial Airport in south Denver was the first airport in Colorado to use unleaded fuel earlier this year. Rocky Mountain Metro Airport in Broomfield has decided that these are minor hurdles and is preparing to offer unleaded fuel soon, with the goal of going completely lead-free by 2027.

Boulder pilots can only use whatever fuel the airport sells, but they’re already embracing a better future. The Soaring Society of Boulder’s tow plane is now STC certified and Journey Aviation has taken delivery of two new flight school planes, all of which can run on fully unleaded fuel. Any pilot is not immune to continued lead fuel if a reasonable alternative is available. Boulder Airport needs to meet this challenge and make a financial turnaround. Today we have a known and controllable risk that can be addressed at minimal cost.

Our city is proud to be at the forefront of environmental issues. Cutting lead emissions by half or more is now feasible and requires only modest investment. It’s an easy decision: move up or keep going and wait for the FAA to fix things later. We believe we must act now. Boulder should continue as a national leader. Let’s do the right thing.

The following organizations are asking Boulder Airport/KBDU to offer unleaded fuel today and do everything possible to encourage its adoption: Vintage Aircraft Association Colorado Antique Aircraft Association, Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1627, Boulder Airport Association, Boulder Soaring Association, and Expeditions Aviation and Mile Lake Gliding.

Harry Ross is president of the Colorado Vintage Airplane Association.

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