The School of Aviation Sciences at Utah Valley University (UVU) will be the first collegiate flight training program in the nation to switch to fully unleaded aviation fuel (UL94) for its training fleet.
Partnering with Swift Fuels, a fuel research and development company based in Indiana, the first shipment of unleaded aviation fuel known as UL94 arrived at UVU’s fuel farm on April 13.
Unleaded fuel, while used in cars for the past 50 years, is not the standard in piston-engine aircraft. Instead, piston aircraft engines need a higher-octane fuel, which requires a lead additive. Swift Fuels’ newly-developed UL94 product is lead-free and approved for use in approximately 70% of the existing piston aircraft fleet, but it is still in the early adoption phase.
UVU’s fleet of 25 aircraft, consisting of Diamond DA40s and Piper Seminoles, are all fully compatible with the new fuel type and ready to reap its benefits. With UL94, engines will run smoother and have fewer mechanical issues, such as fouled spark plugs. Additionally, mandatory aircraft inspections will require fewer man-hours.
“UL94 will drastically reduce maintenance costs for UVU as it burns cleaner, helping the engine components,” said John James, director of aviation maintenance at UVU. “Lower maintenance costs translate into a reduction in aircraft downtime and, ultimately, a more efficient and cost-effective training experience for students.”
In addition to the cost benefits, UL94 is a “greener” fuel alternative, reducing lead exhaust emissions.
Nick Marsh, supervisor of aviation operations at UVU, said he is looking forward to the change to unleaded fuel. “Making the switch will help our operations be more environmentally friendly,” Marsh said. “Swift Fuel’s UL94 will also provide safer working conditions to our fuel-handling employees by eliminating exposure to leaded fuel.”
National Air Transportation Association (NATA) President and CEO Curt Castagna offered the Association’s congratulations on UVU’s announcement.
“NATA is proud of Utah Valley University’s leadership in demonstrating community partnership and environmental progress in making the switch now to UL94, as the industry evolves to a commercially viable fuel that will serve 100% of the piston powered fleet,” Castagna said. “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, while training the future pilot workforce.”
NATA is the leading national trade association representing the business interests of general aviation service companies. The Association is also a member of the industry Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions (EAGLE) — an initiative laying out a clear plan to transition piston-engine aircraft to lead-free aviation fuels by the end of 2030.
The move joins many other sustainability efforts UVU has undertaken in recent years, including reducing water use on campus by 40 million gallons annually, donating more than 2500 pounds of food generated by UVU’s GRIT Garden to the CARE Hub campus food pantry, partnering with UTA on free public transport, constructing the pedestrian bridge across I-15, and more.
UVU’s School of Aviation Sciences has been in operation since 1988 and trained and educated thousands of FAA certified pilots and aviation industry professionals, with a graduate job placement rate exceeding 92%.