...As Summer Flying Season Nears...

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As gas prices creep toward $2 per gallon for drivers in many parts of the country, many pilots are seeing local prices for 100LL inch closer to $3. Jet fuel prices are climbing, too, up more than 30 percent since September. The airlines are feeling the pinch, and last week, four carriers tacked on $5 fuel surcharges to every passenger ticket -- an option not open to GA pilots. Air shows are being squeezed, too. The Florida International Airshow, held last weekend, uses about 100,000 gallons of fuel, the show director told the local NBC2 News. The Thunderbirds alone burn more than 10,000 gallons, which at current prices, even with a volume discount, costs over 19,000 tax dollars. (So be sure you enjoy the show.) Adding to the jitters, OPEC is scheduled to meet next week and may decide to cut production, which would drive prices up even higher. Down under, another problem with the fuel supply has surfaced, as airlines were put on alert last week to watch for black sludge that's been found in the fuel filters of aircraft burning Jet A1 fuel. Thousands of light aircraft in Australia and New Zealand were grounded for a month in 1999 due to problems with the fuel supply. But New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority says the recent sludge problem is more an "annoyance" than a safety issue.