Redbird's Fuel Fest: Y'all Behave Now

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In early 1945, when it finally looked like the fruit of the Manhattan Project would actually yield a workable weapon, none of his fellow scientists appreciated Enrico Fermi’s humor in running a betting pool on whether the bomb would ignite the entire atmosphere. Most of the scientists thought it wouldn’t, but no one knew. What the hell…it was an experiment.

And that’s the thing about experiments. We do them just to see what happens, but spinning out of control is always an option. One hopes the atmosphere will remain intact when Redbird starts selling avgas for a buck a gallon this week at its San Marcos, Texas FBO, but there are hints that a few other unexpected things might happen. As we’ve reported, throughout the month of October, Redbird will be selling avgas for a buck a gallon, the idea being that they hope to learn if cheaper fuel will actually increase flying activity and if so, how and by how much.

As the plan unfolded, it became apparent that this isn’t just an economic experiment, but a sociological one, too. That’s a nice way of saying that such a thing flushes the scam artists out into the light and I suspect Redbird hasn’t seen the half of it yet. When I allowed to my former colleague Jeff Van West, who's the spokesman for the Redbird fuel fest, that I thought he would have an interesting October, he reported he’s already had an interesting September.

Last week, Jerry Gregoire told me they’re getting up to 50 calls a day, including queries about driving trucks in with bladders and even relocating flight schools to San Marcos for the month of October. I suspect some people even think Redbird’s not actually going to do this, but they are.

Even as cynical as I am, what’s left of the burned out core of my youthful idealism allows me to believe that experiments like this—part promotion, part data gathering, part fun, part unvarnished spectacle—will appeal to the better nature of most people. And while that’s probably going to be true, anyone who lived through the Arab oil embargo of 1973 will recall how seriously Americans take their relationship with gasoline. Long lines ignited fist fights, shootings and all manner of mayhem, including attempts at hoarding. If you ask an SUV owner to choose between his firstborn and a fill-up, he’s likely to say…”Give me a minute on that…”

So if you’re headed down to San Marcos for a fill-up, I’d say this: keep your wits and your humanity about you. If you’re thinking of scamming this offer—and I’ll admit, it’s ripe for that—maybe tap the brakes and think better of it. A fill-up at an 80 percent discount is worth at least retaining some of your dignity and self-restraint.

Join the conversation.  Read others' comments and add your own.

Comments (9)

I agree, a little civility will go a long way. Now, where did I leave my Glock...

Posted by: joe grimes | September 29, 2013 8:07 AM    Report this comment

Well said.

Posted by: john hogan | September 30, 2013 5:13 AM    Report this comment

Scientific experiments are not performed "just to see what happens". They are conducted to validate (or invalidate) a hypothesis.

What is Redbird's hypothesis?

Posted by: Jack Burton | September 30, 2013 7:57 AM    Report this comment

No question cheaper fuel would increase my flying. I like to fly my 170 at least once a week. In the hard weather of winter I do well to fly that much, but the rest of the year I have to let some nice flying days go by. If I have an unexpected repair bill, I may make do with a few takeoffs and landings a week for a while. I'll concede I do rent a hangar, which I guess could be looked as a variable cost. But I would not own an airplane without a hangar, any more than I would take on a partner. You can always tell a Mainer, but you can't tell him much.

Posted by: Jerry Fraser | September 30, 2013 9:01 AM    Report this comment

Except for transient cross-country flights, would this even make sense to anyone beyond say 300nm of San Marcos? Reason being that you will burn virtually all the gas you save in getting to and from Redbird. But hey, flying time is why we fly; we don't usually care where we fly!

Good for them, I hope they sell lots of airport cheese crackers to go with the avgas!

Posted by: A Richie | September 30, 2013 10:07 AM    Report this comment

Not sure a short term one airport discount is really the same as if fuel prices were lower every day every where. Still, wish I was close enough to take advantage.

Posted by: B Noel | September 30, 2013 11:01 AM    Report this comment

If I lived within 100 NM of this airport I would be flying about 4 times a week for the length of this promotion.

Posted by: Ric Lee | September 30, 2013 7:05 PM    Report this comment

Hang on, I'm bringing my DC-7!

Posted by: Jean-Francois Reat | September 30, 2013 9:47 PM    Report this comment

This would be a great time and place for the Warbirds of America to have their fall fly-in.

Posted by: Richard Montague | October 1, 2013 8:24 AM    Report this comment

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