ANN stays in touch with
the GA world (as well as other aspects of the aero-biz) by
maintaining regular contact with persons and companies who
comprise the rank and file of this business.
A popular conversation topic, more and more with each
succeeding month, revolves around the rising cost of AvGas and the
effect it will have on the sustainability of GA's growth
Recent escalations in the price of AvGas, rumors about its
future availability, and the threat of continued price increases is
starting to show up in the decisions being made by GA aircraft
buyers. Aviation fuel costs have escalated at a rate equal to, or
in excess of, what car-drivers are seeing at gas pumps
while the unique refining requirements, as well as limited
market, for AvGas promise that prices will remain pricey for the
Concern over these prices is starting to show up in the
decisions being voiced by buyers of today's GA products. Fred
Ahles, President of Premier Aircraft Sales, one of the most active
aircraft sales organization in the GA spectrum, agrees.
"We're hearing it more and more," he notes.
"While it may not be the primary reason people buy any
particular aircraft, it is more and more a supporting factor,
especially with those aircraft that boast some level of economy
over others." Ahles has a thriving Diamond and Mooney dealership
network (and is reportedly a top sales agent for both lines),
aircraft already known for their efficiency and lower operating
costs, so operational economy is likely to be something he hears
about a lot.
"One might not think
that someone who may be spending as much as $400,000 on a new
airplane would be concerned about fuel costs, but when they're
comparing one aircraft against another, that may cost as much as
another $15-20 per hour, one can see where the costs start to add
up over the life of a purchase. Buyers are not unaware of this."
When factored into a 200-300 hour yearly utilization, such savings
can represent as much as $3000-4500 every year... "which pays for a
lot of insurance and other necessities," says Ahles (pictured,
Ahles reported that one area in which fuel costs are having a
strong and immediate impact on buying decisions, comes from
flight schools and aircraft destined for lease-back. "Being able to
shave a few dollars an hour off the cost of operating a training or
rental aircraft is very important to flight schools. It can mean
the difference between profit and loss... and this makes them
more competitive with other schools and FBOs. It's a growing
concern now, and I think we're going to see it become an even
bigger factor down the road."
This is one of the reasons that next-generation aero-diesel
engines (offered by Diamond, overseas only, at the moment for their
DA40s and soon for the DA42 twin) are getting a lot of attention.
"TDI (Thielert diesel) inquiries are way up," Fred confirms, "I
think the flight schools are going to adopt diesel in a very big
way when they become readily available. I mean, we're talking about
half the comparable fuel costs in some cases. The European market
is already coming around fast."
A recent ANN test flight showed that the Thielert
powered DA40 could fly on as little as 2 GPH of Jet A and rarely
consumed more than 5-6 GPH throughout the normal operating ranges
of a test flight -- and Jet A is usually cheaper than AvGas, to
boot. That's a compelling issue.
As a result, a number of GA manufacturers are looking at
alternative powerplants, using either alternative fuels or more
efficient power systems (FADEC, liquid-cooling, and the like), to
keep the fuel crunch from strangling the future of GA. Major
announcements are reportedly less than a year away from a number of
GA manufacturers with engine builders Thielert and Bombardier (with
their surprisingly efficient, and potentially multi-fuel-able, V6)
looking to ride the leading edge of the first real revolution in GA
powerplant technology we've seen in quite a while. More info to