Does the price we pay for fuel have a direct influence on how much we operate our airplanes, cars, and boats? According to an article that appeared in the EAA’s November 2011 issue of Sport Aviation (“My $.02 on $6 Avgas”), the price of avgas is less important than one might think.
Author Mike Busch calculated the annual costs for his 1979 Cessna T310R twin. Assuming he’d fly less as avgas prices climbed from $4 to $6 per gallon, he concluded that the ratio of total cost to fuel cost remained the same at 3:1 for any fuel price. While his choice of hours flown appears to be somewhat arbitrary, his rationale was plausible. Busch concludes with this statement: “Bottom line of all this is that the true impact of $6 avgas is less than I originally thought when put in the proper inflation-adjusted context. Yes, it hurts. But no, it doesn’t hurt enough for me to quit flying or sell my airplane.”
According to this recent report from WINK News of Fort Myers, Florida, not all pilots agree with Mr. Busch. “At Beaver Aviation, Chief Pilot Lubomir Gueorguiev, says he expected prices to take off as we head in to spring and summer, but he worries it will hurt business. ‘The price of the fuel is a major factor of this business, and when the price of the fuel goes up, it kills the business,’ Gueorguiev said.”
Paul Kroppen, a pilot working on his multi-engine rating at Fort Myer’s Page Field (KFMY), agrees: “The gas prices were, in the beginning, around $3, now they’re getting to $5 and at some airports, they’re even at 6, 7 or 8 dollars.” Kroppen says it’s nearly killed his love of flying. “It’s taken the fun out of it.”
The effect of higher fuel prices at the local gas station do appear to having an effect on driving habits. As seen in this chart from the DOE’s EIA, monthly deliveries of gasoline have dropped by a whopping 50% in the past decade, and are the lowest they’ve been since the early 1980s. Clearly people are driving less.
Pleasure boaters, too have reduced the number of hours they spend on the open water as a result of higher fuel prices. While attending the recent International Marina and Boatyard Conference (IMBC) in Orlando, your blogger heard comments from a number of marina owners that more boat owners these days are saving money by spending time on their boats but never leaving their slips!
Since avgas represents less than 0.2% of the total fuel consumed in the U.S., we will always pay a premium for our boutique aviation fuel. Smarter would be to tap into the relatively large production of vehicle fuel, which means autogas. Smarter yet would be to exploit every possible deposit of oil in North America, which is why the news from the Bakken and Marcellus fields gives one reason for optimism.
What about you? Are you flying less with the national average price for avgas today at $5.83 ?
The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft: Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., a pilot, homebuilder and expert on autogas and ethanol, and Kent Misegades, Cary, N.C., an aerospace engineer, aviation sales rep for U-Fuel, and president of EAA1114.
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