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 Fermis humor in running a betting pool on whether the bomb would ignite the entire atmosphere. Most of the scientists thought it wouldnt, but no one knew. What the hell…it was an experiment.
And thats 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 weve 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 isnt just an economic experiment, but a sociological one, too. Thats a nice way of saying that such a thing flushes the scam artists out into the light and I suspect Redbird hasnt 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 hes already had an interesting September.
Last week, Jerry Gregoire told me theyre 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 Redbirds not actually going to do this, but they are.
Even as cynical as I am, whats 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 thats 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, hes likely to say…Give me a minute on that…
So if youre headed down to San Marcos for a fill-up, Id say this: keep your wits and your humanity about you. If youre thinking of scamming this offer-and Ill admit, its 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.