Are Fuel Prices and Flying Activity Linked? Mystery Solved

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A while back I wrote an online column in these e-pages in which I guessed that even though pilots were paying a lot less to pump premium into their Porsche Panameras, when they headed out to the tee hangar to top off their Taylorcraft, they wouldn't see much of a break in the price per gallon of avgas. I was wrong, and hooray for that. The price of avgas has come down. You can find avgas all over the place for around $4 a gallon, and in a few places for less than $3.50 per. While I don't think those prices will last forever, there are signs that they'll be around at least for awhile. The result of cheaper fuel? In 2013, Redbird founder Jerry Gregoire had the bright idea to sell avgas for a $1 a gallon. He got a bunch of partners to sponsor what amounted to a grand giveaway to see what the effect would be. Did people fly more? Well, it's hard to say. A lot of people flew to Redbird's SkyPort in San Marcos, Texas, to get the unbelievably cheap fuel, but it was never clear how many pilots, if any, were making trips because they could stop at SkyPort along their way and save a bundle. This time around, it's a real world test with real world prices at FBOs around the country. What are the findings? Easy. People are flying more. At least that's the anecdotal data, and with a little research I'm sure we'll be seeing proof of that soon. A few things have struck me. There are more airplanes on frequency these days than I've heard in ages. I'm seeing more avgas burners on the ramps I visit, and my pilot friends are talking a lot more about flying their TBMs and Travellers to the Bahamas or Gulf Coast and a lot less about staycations and travel trailers. I spoke with AOPA head Mark Baker at Daher's ribbon cutting at its new TBM facility in Pompano Beach, Florida, and he shared his joy at flying around Florida in his Super Cub and finding fuel for around $3.30 a gallon. For some flying an airplane with a slightly larger fuel capacity, like a Cessna TTx, the savings between then and now on an 80-gallon fill up would be pushing $200. Per top off. That'll get you flying. Baker went on to say that his folks at AOPA are also hearing from maintenance shops that they're getting booked up solid as airplanes relegated to the hangar for the past few years are once again coming out to play. That's great news for us all. The people who control global fuel prices are probably not overly concerned with the effect of their product's cost on the relative handful of people like us who fly light airplanes for transportation and recreation, but there are other big factors that bode well, including the United States' increasing production of oil and the complex geopolitical situation that involves Russia and its competition with OPEC states in the production of crude. It's not often that I think of Middle East oil producers in kind ways when it comes to fuel prices, but I do every time I pull out my credit card at the shiny FBO counter and the number at the bottom of the bill is a curiously and delightfully small figure. Let's go flying.

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