ANCHORAGE – Tim Karlovich briefed his chief pilot Alicen Bishop Monday before she headed from Merrill Field to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to pick up passengers after a day at the base.
The helicopter she pilots runs on a form of diesel fuel. But the others operated by Jayhawk Air use aviation gasoline (avgas), which contains lead.
Not for much longer.
General-aviation aircraft is currently the only form of transportation that still uses leaded fuel. The Environmental Protection Agency wants to change that by 2018.
“It basically makes pilots become test pilots,” Karlovich said. He points out leaded fuel helps engines run smoother. It prevents things such as engine knock, which is something you don’t want when you’re flying.
“My concerns are few and far between, but, when they come up, they could be catastrophic,” Karlovich said.
Plus, there’s the cost of doing business. Karlovich believes prices will rise because of engine modifications to handle the new fuel.
The Federal Aviation Administration has received proposals from 10 companies that will study ways to create the new unleaded fuel. Testing is expected to begin in about a year.