Would you fly more if avgas was $1 a gallon?

How does fuel price really influence general aviation? This October, a group of companies will use the Skyport aviation laboratory, in San Marcos, Texas, to find out by selling avgas for $1 a gallon.

“This experiment isn’t about the cost of avgas,” says Jeff Van West, director of Redbird Media, and spokesman for the experiment. “It’s true that we’re selling avgas for $1 per gallon for the entire month of October. But we’re really using fuel price as a catalyst to stimulate activity and generate data. Of course $1 gas will increase flying activity, if by novelty alone. That’s not the point. The core question is: Increase it by how much and for how long? A ten-fold increase says fuel price plays a huge role. A 40% increase? Maybe not so much. And if fuel price isn’t the barrier, what is?”

Integral in the experiment will be data collected on all pilots fueling their aircraft at the Skyport, located at San Marcos Municipal Airport (KHYI). Van West said the fuel offer is open to any piston aircraft that can fly in and fly out, so long as the pilot participates in the study about how flying choices are made.

Repeat customers may even get follow-up questions to help track changes in flying habits. Van West did add with a grin that, “Pilots arriving in their cars or carrying fuel cans will not be eligible.”

Several big names in aviation are behind this experiment, he noted. Garmin, Aspen Avionics, King Schools, ForeFlight, Bendix King, EAA, GAMA, Jeppesen, Phillips 66, Piper Aircraft, Avemco Insurance, Sennheiser, Hartzell, Bad Elf, and Brown Aviation Leasing have all joined forces to make this happen. The City of San Marcos and some local businesses have also offered support, underscoring how savvy municipalities understand the economic impact of aviation, he said. San Marcos is an alternative destination to the overloaded Austin-Bergstrom airport, especially during major events, like Formula One races. It’s also an alternative airport for traffic to San Antonio.

During October, CEOs and other leaders from partner companies will conduct town meetings at the Skyport to answer pilot questions and hear opinions on the direction of their products and the aviation industry. Pilot opinions on what motivates them to fly will also be part of the data published when the experiment is complete. The latest schedule is available here.

“We chose October for this test to take advantage of the fantastic flying weather in Texas, and give pilots additional incentive to fly to AOPA Summit in Fort Worth, Oct. 10-12, and the Migration Flight Training Conference at Skyport, Oct. 28-30,” says Van West. “When the month is up, we expect to have fresh insight into how fuel price really factors into the many forces affecting how often GA pilots fly.”

Redbird Skyport is a multi-purpose general aviation services center at San Marcos Municipal Airport (KHYI) that functions as a research and development laboratory. Located between Austin and San Antonio, Redbird Skyport has a flight school, as well as a full-service FBO.

For more information: RedbirdSkyport.com


  1. Daryl Bortel says

    It would be great if Avgas was back down to $3 a gallon. That would be huge and change how often most aviators would fly….

  2. Gary Soucy says

    I would like to see them offer the survey to those who are too far away to take advantage of the $1 fuel. Keep them separate if necessary for their experiment. I would definitely fly more if fuel cost were less.

  3. Keith Wood says

    Fuel is the primary per-hour cost of flying. Other costs, such as hangar, insurance, depreciation, etc are built into ownership (or rental aircraft), whether they’re in the air or chained to the planet. If the plane isn’t flown an hour all year, it still needs a current annual inspection to be legal to fly — and not flying a plane doesn’t save much (if anything) on the cost of that annual.

    That brings us back to fuel. I don’t know how much saving this will be for that area, but if we could knock $5 per gallon off of the price of avgas, that would cut $50 per hour off of the price of flying a Cessna 182. That would get a lot of planes off the ground.

    I’ve noticed that the guys with autogas STCs do a lot more flying than guys with the same type planes but who hit the 100LL tank. That could simply be a chicken-and-egg issue, with owners to like to fly for fun being more likely to invest in the STC (then take advantage of it) than those who don’t, but I tend to think that the $10 per hour saving in a Cessna 150 makes a difference. People who fly relatively inexpensive airplanes tend to do so BECAUSE they’re inexpensive, and will fly more if the price were lower.

    Thus, it might not make a lot of difference for “business class” owners, but I expect there to be plenty of two- and four-holer singles getting the dust flown off of them in that area during this experiment.

  4. Ken Deken says

    I think the price of fuel is overrated as a factor in decisions to fly. My Bonanza burns about 15 GPH, so the cost of fuel is about $90/hour. Still, with the capital cost of the airplane, hangar, annual, insurance, general maintenance, depreciation on the engine/prop/avionics, I look at the fuel as the fun cost. The other costs are generally sunk anyway and the fuel takes me somewhere.

  5. Craig says

    Come on now. If you drop the price 10% no one would fly 10% more. The price of car gas has gone up from the days of Clinton from 80 cents to $4.00 plus now. Sure we are driving a little bit less but not 80% less. If I knew car gas was going to be cheaper for one month, I would drive as much as I could but if the price stuck at that lower price my driving would go back to just what I normally drive. I don’t think the results will be useful at all. They will certainly be over exaggerated. As for Avgas, I use regular car gas w/o alcohol but If that is not available I use Avgas and I don’t think twice that it cost me an extra $14 to full the tank. I need the gas and that’s the bottom line.

    • Gary Soucy says

      The difference here is we are more dependent on our cars and trucks for everyday life. Getting to work, shopping, etc. We fly for fun so I believe the price of fuel does matter. The more you fly, the less it cost to have that airplane. I use mogas whenever I can because that’s a couple extra gallons and more flying for the same dollar. If the price of fuel was cut in half I would fly twice as much!

  6. says

    My “final” comment:
    1 Would you BUY more groceries if the cost were .15 cents on the dollar?
    2. Would you BUY a luxury car that “lists” for $ $100kK for $15K?
    3. Would you sent your son/daughter to Harvard/Yale since the cost then would be that of a state school?
    4. Would you take a cruise to Rio for $3K that would “normally” cost $45K?
    5, And finally; would you accept $15 from a total stranger – no strings attached?

    IF you “answered” NO to any other these questions – you’re eligible as a contestant on the next “Dr. Phil Show’!

  7. Dave Wilson says

    Fuel cost is an important factor in the time I fly my Bonanza. The less fuel for this aircraft costs the more I fly!

  8. Doug McDowall says

    Is this a trick question? I predict that pilots based anywhere within an hour’s flight from San Marcos will be flying in to tank up on fuel and get what used to be called the $100 hamburger while there, also those on cross-coutry flights will stop there for fuel, diverting off-course if necessary. The losers will be all of the other FBO’s within 30 miles. Please report on the results of this experiment in November.

  9. Joseph says

    If I lived anywhere near there I would be flying every chance I got — I wounder if their flight schools will factor the saving into the cost of lessons… At 1/6 the cost of avgas that could be a huge savings (about 2000) off getting ones license.

    • says

      Mr. Joesph; I think if most “flight schools” were to lower their hourly rates, a SECOND divorce would be eminent. If one were to examiner the financials, they would probably find a “loss” at present. They’re already funding (indirectly) the students passion for flight – noble, but non-cent$!!

  10. says

    Lets try this ;in the alternative: How many MORE Lexus, Mercedes, or BMW’s would be sold IF the retail prices were reduced by say 10%? OR, if av fuel (100LL) cost would be reduced by the same 10%, how much more flying would “Earl'” do in his 1960 “172”?

    OK: Fuel cost: $5.00/gal (used for calculation purposes only)
    Annual utilization – 40 hrs x 8 gph fuel burn X $5.00=$1,600
    10% saving ($.050/gal x 40 x 8)= $160
    Net cost/hr becomes $36 x 40 hrs=$1,440
    $160 (saving) divided by $36= 4.4 hrs

    Conclusion: “Earl” could fly his “172” (IF he choose) 4.4 MORE hrs with a DECREASE
    of 10% on fuel (only) costs

    SUMMARY STATEMENT: If “Earl” can’t afford $40/hr for fuel expense – wouldn’t one “question” if he could afford $36?

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