Aviation fuel prices soaring up, up and away
The price of airplane fuel has skyrocketed in recent years, but the increase in Aspen far outpaced the national average and has hit aircraft owners here hard.
Fuel for a private propeller airplane is now up to $6.16 a gallon in Aspen, while the price in Glenwood Springs, less than 50 miles away, is $3.20.
Chad Farischon, manager of what is called the Aspen fixed-based operator (similar to a gas station for aircraft), said the cost of living in Aspen has a lot to do with the price. Further, he said, Glenwood and Rifle might have lower prices because they may be selling fuel that is months old. Because Aspen is so busy, it runs through fuel more quickly, he said. Not as quickly as it could, since many of Aspen’s customers are flying down to Glenwood or Rifle to get their gas.
“I seldom buy from [Aspen],” said local pilot John McBride, who said he buys gas here only when he flies in and is empty.
Randall Kempton, director of operations for Premier Aviation in Glenwood, acknowledges that many of his customers fly down from Aspen just to buy gas.
“It’s just Aspen. Everything’s higher up there,” he said. “They probably get it cheaper than what we get it for, they buy it bulk. We get it for $2.78 or $2.82. We don’t make a big profit on it. I’m sure they get it cheaper than that.”
Farischon, however, the theory that the Aspen FBO, owned by Trajen, gets gas any cheaper than places like Glenwood is a myth.
Prices at other airports in the Trajen FBO network are generally at least a dollar cheaper than in Aspen. Sacramento, Calif., runs at $5.02 and Binghamton, N.Y., lists a price of $4.96.
In Aspen, there is a locals discount of $1. Even so, Bruce Gordon’s nonprofit organization, EcoFlight, has been having a hard time with the rate increases.
“I’m now flying the airplane to other places to get gas,” Gordon said. “Even with the dollar off, it’s more than the other places. Now I have to adjust everything. I used to always buy gas in Aspen. I was one of their bigger [aviation gasoline] customers. Now I have to go elsewhere.”
It’s gotten to the point where some locals are looking at the possibility of opening a nonprofit base operation just to sell fuel at a more reasonable price.
“They give us a dollar off, which I applaud, but they’ve gone a little too far now,” Gordon said. “There is room for another FBO there, so maybe competition would push those prices down. There’s talk around. I haven’t heard anything too serious. But when prices get to this point we need to take some action.”
Farischon wouldn’t disclose how much profit the FBO makes on a gallon of fuel. “That’s private information,” he said.
Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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