October 9, 2013 - Redbird Skyport at San Marcos Municipal Airport (HYI), Texas, is ending its experiment in selling avgas for $1 per gallon on October 15 instead of carrying on through the entire month as originally planned.
The "experiment" was designed to determine how the cost of avgas altered the amount of general aviation flying activity. Pilots who landed at HYI could buy the $1 avgas after answering survey questions about the importance of fuel prices.
The number of pilots and amount of fuel sold wildly exceeded Redbird's expectations. In the first week of the experiment Redbird Skyport pumped 30 times its normal fuel volume. The survey revealed that most of the pilots buying the cheap fuel were highly experienced and many hold ATP certificates. Piston twins accounted for 30 percent of the low-cost fuel purchases. And 20 percent of the pilots buying fuel in the first week were repeat customers.
In a typical month Redbird Skyport sells 4,000 gallons of avgas, but at the $1 price the company projects that by October 15 it will sell 90,000 gallons. Pilots from as far away as the East and West coasts have come to central Texas to buy the cheap fuel, with three fuel trucks running full time and wait times approaching two hours.
Redbird Skyport will keep the $1 per gallon experiment going through the AOPA Summit in nearby Fort Worth that takes place October 10-12. But the company says it is physically and economically impossible to keep pumping such volumes of avgas at $1 per gallon for the rest of the month as originally planned.
Pilots who bought the cheap fuel completed a survey of questions. Redbird says those data are revealing, and they will have a report later. What appears to be clear now is that it was highly experienced pilots flying very capable airplanes that were attracted to the fuel experiment. What that means for future growth in general aviation and the importance of fuel costs to people considering learning to fly remains to be seen.