October 1, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
Low clouds held down early sales on day one of a $1-per-gallon avgas promotion by Redbird Skyport in San Marcos, Texas. But as the weather improved, the fuel began to flow.
Redbird had been bracing for an onslaught of demand based on an “overwhelming response” to advance publicity about its offer to sell 100LL fuel for $1 per gallon throughout October during the FBO’s normal business hours at San Marcos Municipal Airport. But after Redbird opened for business at 6 a.m. on Oct. 1, a half hour passed before a Bonanza pilot became the first customer to buy the deeply discounted fuel, said Josh Harnagel, Redbird Skyport’s marketing manager, in a phone interview.
Improving weather brought an uptick in sales, however. By noon, Redbird had pumped about 1,700 gallons of avgas, fueling about 30 aircraft.
There were no lines for fuel. By early afternoon, aircraft were landing approximately every five minutes, and placing fuel orders, he said.
Redbird slashed its fuel prices with support from several sponsoring companies and organizations as part of an experiment announced in August to study the relationship between avgas pricing and general aviation pilots’ flying habits. Customers who placed fuel orders provided data for the project by answering several survey questions posed by iPad-bearing Redbird employees, Harnagel said.
In September, as interest in the promotion soared, the company followed up with a news release setting forth the terms of the $1 avgas sale and noted concern that some aircraft operators were planning to take unfair advantage of the offer.
Anticipating the spike in demand, Redbird also moved to add a third truck to its fleet of avgas-dispensing vehicles.
With limited fuel-storage capacity, the FBO also made arrangements with its distributor to request short-notice avgas deliveries in a bid to head off shortages during the promotion.
By early afternoon of day one, the third truck was proving a good idea.
"We are getting very busy," Harnagel said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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