Abstract The concept of minimum ignition energy (MIE) has traditionally formed the basis for studying ignition hazards of fuels. However, the viewpoint of ignition as a statistical phenomenon appears to be more consistent with the inherent variability in engineering test data. We have developed a very low-energy capacitive spark ignition system to produce short sparks with fixed lengths of 1–2 mm, and the ignition system is used to perform spark ignition tests using a range of spark energies in lean hydrogen–oxygen–argon test mixtures used in aviation safety testing. The test results are analyzed using statistical tools to obtain probability distributions for ignition versus spark energy. A second low-energy spark ignition system was also developed to generate longer sparks with varying lengths up to 10 mm. A second set of ignition tests is performed in one of the test mixtures using a range of spark energies and spark lengths. The results are analyzed to obtain a probability distribution for ignition versus the spark energy per unit spark length. Preliminary results show that a single threshold MIE value does not exist, but rather that ignition is statistical in nature and highly dependent on mixture composition and spark length.