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Left Coast Pilot – Avgas, the Cost of Flying and a Gyro Tip

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April 2012

Last year, I was appointed to the Modesto City-County Airport Advisory Committee, a group chartered jointly by the city and county to give advice to the airport manager. We have monthly meetings, the topic of which, I suspect, is probably the same as that for most other General Aviation airports: how to increase revenue, which fell dramatically in the 2008 recession, and has yet to recover to anything like pre-recession levels.

A common complaint in those meetings is the high cost of 100 low lead (100LL) aviation gas. I’ve been told multiple times by different people something along the lines of “five-dollar Avgas is killing General Aviation.” (If that sounds cheap where you live, bear with me).

That set me to thinking… Granted that all pilots would like to see it priced lower, just how important is the price of 100LL, really?

I’m one of five pilots in a partnership with a fixed-gear single engine piston airplane. Each partner pays $140 per month for fixed costs (hangar, insurance, annual inspection), and $50 per hour for variable costs (unscheduled maintenance and engine reserve), dry. Our fuel burn is about 13 gph. As a group we average about 500 hours per year, or 100 hours per partner, so the per-hour cost for each of us averages:

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