In almost every article about the future of leaded avgas, this statement appears, “… only one fuel will be stocked by the FBO system.” This particular quote comes from a reply by Mac McClellen to Todd Petersen in Mac’s latest Left Seat blog on the EAA’s website. You will also find it in almost every article and editorial from any aviation alphabet organization about the modern state of 100LL avgas.
My question is why are FBO’s the sole determinant of fuel sales on an airport? The answer is because of an obsolete view of what an FBO should do.
I know that my local airport here in central Oregon requires any commercial entity that sells fuel on the airport to also be an FBO. It is in the airport master plan regulations. It stems form the outdated notion that fuel sales need a human intermediary at an airport, to operate the pump and collect the payment.
Now that may have been true decades ago when most refueling at small airports was done from a truck and the only method of payment was cash or oil company credit card. It used to be the same at your local service station. But that is a completely outdated model.
As with your local service station, the modern refueling systems are completely modular, above ground, self contained and self service. Most service stations want you to pump your own fuel so they don’t have to have personnel on hand. Ironically we don’t allow that here in Oregon — only an attendant can pump your gasoline unless you use a commercial card lock system or you are a pilot at an airport self service fueling station.
It is time to remove the restriction that aviation fueling operations must be under the commercial umbrella of the FBO structure. Ironically an ever-increasing number of avgas refueling systems are already self-serve and you have no idea if an FBO really owns it or not.
Another major impediment to expanding mogas availability and competition on our airports stemming from the FBO model is that the FBO’s current fuel brander may economically threaten an FBO that wants to add mogas. I have talked with a number of FBO owners out here west of the Rockies who have related the threats to me.
Any commercial entity with the economic wherewithal to install a modern self-serve fueling station should be allowed to enter the fueling business on any airport within the engineering and safety parameters as set down by the state that all other fueling operations must follow. With this ability to compete, I guarantee you that the statement that “… only one fuel will be stocked by the FBO system” will become as meaningless as it already is at at least 100 airports in the U.S. and growing every month. I know personally that this obsolete model is stifling competition here in Central Oregon to the detriment of GA. Pilots in my area support mogas at the airport.
Contributed by Dean Billing
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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