Redbird Cheap Gas Experiment: A Lasting Effect?

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Redbird’s San Marcos, Texas, Skyport made quite a splash earlier in October when it sold avgas for two weeks at a buck a gallon. Yet two weeks after the cheap gas experiment ended, flight activity is still up threefold at the airport, according to Redbird CEO Jerry Gregoire. Redbird launched the cheap gas experiment on October 1 as a means of finding out whether the cost of fuel really is a major driver in lack of flight activity. They found out. 

“We’re glad to say the demand is out there to fly. It surprised us quite a bit. We expected in the first two weeks to sell about 16,000 gallons where we would have normally sold about 2000 gallons in that period of time. We ended up selling 90,000 gallons,” Gregoire said in this podcast recorded during the company’s third annual Migration training and industry conference this week.

Another surprise, said Gregoire, is that the buck-a-gallon experiment seems to have had a pump priming effect.

“Now what we’re seeing after this is that the amount of flying into this airport and the flights scheduled into this area are up about threefold on a daily basis since that promotion ended,” Gregoire said.

“It can’t be coincidence. Some portion of it has to be that once brought back to flying and reminded of how much fun it is and getting the airplane ready to fly so they could buy the dollar gas, they’re flying again,” he added.

In exchange for gas at a dollar a gallon, Redbird interviewed more that 1600 pilots flying in a total of about 1000 airplanes, some of whom made multiple flights into San Marcos. One flight school moved its entire operation to San Marcos temporarily for just the fuel experiment. Pilots were asked about how much they fly, where they fly and what type of flight they typically make. Interestingly, almost a quarter—23 percent—said they hadn’t flown in at least a year before the cheap fuel became available.

“Imagine this for a second. You have five valves that you can use to control the aspects of the cost of aviation. Now we had the ability to pull one of those valves and we pulled it all the way out at a dollar to see what would happen. Well, since we know that works, what if we could pull all five of valves out just a little bit, to help bring aviation back?” Gregoire said.

Although the price of fuel can’t be adjusted much if at all, consumption certainly can be, which is the root idea behind Redbird’s diesel Redhawk project. Gregoire said it may be possible to make incremental cost reductions in other areas, including maintenance and training. Those topics were scheduled to be on the table for discussion as the Migration conference continued this week.

More than 300 industry professionals attended Migration, up substantially from last year. “We’ve got a lot of the best thinkers in the industry talking to each other. You get a lot done. These kinds of personal relationships mean a lot in general aviation,” Gregoire said.