In one of the bolder loss leader approaches weve ever seen, Redbirds Skyport in San Marcos, Texas, will be selling avgas for a dollar a gallon throughout the month of October. Whats the catch? There really isnt one, other than the company will ask fuel buyers to participate in a brief survey probing their views on flying habits and how-or even if-the price of avgas affects those views and, especially, flying behavior.
The idea is to test whether the cost of flying had either a direct or indirect or even a cumulative effect on the fact that theres a lot less flying going on, said Redbirds CEO Jerry Gregoire.
The theory is that people dont fly as much as they used to because its so expensive to fly. Weve seen a lot of initiatives going on, mostly the alphabet groups, to encourage people to come back to flying. But were not getting any measureable data on whether any of that stuff is working, he added.
Redbird figures that its gas-too-cheap-to-believe experiment will illuminate opinions on both sides of the cost-as-driver divide.So we have this laboratory here and we have this ability to test by pulling one of the levers to see what happens, Gregoire said. The laboratory, of course, is Redbirds Skyport facility, where the company has been developing new, simulator-centric training programs and attempting to drive its programs with experimental data that can be applied to a larger market.
So we decided to pull the fuel lever and make fuel very, very affordable and see what happens, Gregoire said. Upon filling up, pilots will be asked to take a short survey asking them about their flying habits and activity and how or whether cost figures in. As of press time, Redbird hadnt developed the specific survey questions, but they do plan to ask follow-up questions a few months later to determine if the cheap fuel offer primed the flight hour activity pump.
As for contest rules, so to speak, there arent any. Just show up with an airplane and a credit card-no gas cans allowed. There are no restrictions on size of aircraft nor frequency of fill-up for those pilots lucky enough to be based around San Marcos. The experiment is specifically planned for October to take advantage of AOPA Summit, to be held in Ft. Worth, and Redbirds own Migration training conference.
Redbird has enlisted co-sponsors for the program, including Garmin, King Schools, the city of San Marcos, Bendix/King, EAA, Piper Aircraft, Avemco Insurance, Hartzell, Brown Aviation Lease, Phillips 66 and Sennheiser. Gregoire said hes not sure how much fuel the effort will sell, but his estimate is five times the usual 5000 gallons a month. But what if its 10 times? Were prepared for that. We can certainly get the fuel, he said.
San Marcos, KHYI, is located between Austin and San Antonio and is a towered airport with instrument approaches. Redbird operates its own FBO on the field.Redbirds Jeff Van West, the spokesman for the project, said for the month dollar-a-gallon fuel is available, CEOs and other industry leaders will conduct town meetings to answer pilot questions and gather opinions on aviation product and services. The data will eventually be published on Skyports website. See the latest schedule information here.