Unlike jets and turboprops, which generally burn (relatively) benign jet fuel (usually a straight kerosene, occasionally with plain gasoline blended in as a freezing-point depressant), piston-engined aircraft usually run on avgas, which is chock-full of tetraethyllead1 to keep it from prematurely igniting or detonating at high compression ratios and possibly tearing the engine apart.

When responding to a burning piston aircraft (or mangled wreckage thereof), do ARFF personnel have to use special equipment to keep all that delightful lead out of their lungs and bloodstreams?

1: The LL (Low Lead) designation in the name of the only avgas in common use today - 100LL - is a misnomer. 100LL actually has a higher lead content than even the most-leaded mogas; its lead content is only “low” compared to the higher-octane avgas grades used by the large, high-compression piston aeroengines of decades past, which had much more lead than even 100LL.


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