SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Pilots in the South Bay are going to great lengths to save Reid-Hillview Airport, switching to unleaded fuel in the wake of calls to shut the San Jose facility down.

For the first time in the airport’s history, pilots at the embattled airport will be able to buy unleaded gasoline for their airplanes. It’s an effort to reduce the environmental impact of leaded airplane fuel on neighborhoods near the airport.

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“We understand that lead is harmful. We’re glad to be taking this step towards eliminating lead at this airport,” said pilot John McGowan.

The switch to unleaded fuel which has to be trucked in from Indiana comes as calls for the airport to close grow louder.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors commissioned a study of blood samples of 17,000 children living near the airport which found elevated levels of lead.

Supervisor Cindy Chavez questioned the timing and sincerity of the airport’s decision to provide unleaded fuel to pilots.

“It feels cosmetic to me and not like a permanent solution. And what we need for these families in something permanent,” said Chavez.

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Community activists delivered a petition with more than 2,500 signatures to the Board of Supervisors demanding that the airport be shut down immediately.

“For once and for all do the right thing, close the damn airport!” said former Supervisor Blanca Alvarado.

However, pilots say they should be given an opportunity to be part of the solution. They argue switching to unleaded fuel is a step in the right direction.

“As soon as unleaded fuel was available, I raised my hand and said, ‘I want it. Get it out here, get it into my airplanes.’ Let’s show the pilot community that not only is is good to run it, it’s good for your airplane and for the environment,” said Josh Watson, owner of AeroDynamic Aviation.

On Monday, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo released a statement voicing his continued support for closing the airport.

“I have publicly and consistently supported the closure of Reid-Hillview Airport. To whatever extent the County’s most recent lead study confirms safety and community health concerns, its closure seems all the more imperative,” the statement read in part. “Yet there also remain critical health and safety issues that the County must resolve as a condition to its closure—and not as an afterthought.”

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The full text of the mayor’s latest statement on the issue is available online.