With the worldwide airline industry operating at just a fraction of its usual capacity, and general and business aviation operators mostly under “stay at home” orders because of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, US skies are for the most part empty, as aircraft of all shapes and sizes remain grounded. But for those who continue to fly and must purchase either 100LL avgas for piston-powered aircraft, mogas for experimental and light-sport aircraft, or jet-A for turbine aircraft, significant pressures in the oil industry have resulted in fuel prices falling at FBOs across the country.
As with any fuel product, pricing fluctuates based on the underlying price of the unrefined oil used in the manufacturing process. A benchmark used in the oil industry for petroleum-based products is the futures price of a barrel (42 U.S. gallons) of Brent Crude (ICE:B), which has seen a turbulent ride during the past 12 years. From a high of $144.49 per barrel in July 2008, Brent Crude has now fallen to a recent low of $19.33 per barrel on April 21, 2020, according to investing.com. Like all petroleum-based products, aviation fuel pricing is subject to supply and demand market issues, and because of travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, a significant drop in demand and an oversupply of crude oil worldwide have sent pump prices tumbling.
A review of the Fuel Price Report on Airnav.com from March 31 through April 24, 2020, reveals a great deal of disparity in prices around the country for 100LL avgas, jet-A and mogas (auto fuel). Prices shown below reflect cost per US gallon, with Airnav indicating at least 50 percent of prices shown are “less than three days old” at the time the data was pulled.
The average nationwide price for 100LL avgas was $4.73, with the lowest reported price just $2.40 and the highest $9.99. On a regional basis, the lowest average price for 100LL avgas is found in the Southwest, where 563 reporting FBOs have an average price of $4.36, with the highest charging $7.19 and the lowest $2.55. Average 100LL avgas prices for other regions include $4.49 in the Central states, $5.28 in New England, $4.97 in the Western Pacific states, $4.74 in the Great Lakes area and $4.53 in the Southern states. Alaska fuel pricing for 100LL avgas shows an average price of $6.30, a low of $4.79, and a high of $9.99.
Nationwide, 2,551 FBOs reporting on airnav.com are charging an average of $4.19 for Jet A, with the lowest price being $1.30 and the highest coming in at $9.99. The 212 FBOs reporting in the Central region report the lowest average price of $3.80, with lowest prices found with Eastern state FBOs at $2.00, Northwest Mountain FBOs at $2.08, and Southern outlets at $1.92. The highest Jet A prices reported were in Alaska at $9.99, followed by the Eastern states at $8.39.
Mogas is not currently reflecting the huge discount pricing we are seeing at our neighborhood gas stations. Nationwide, 88 FBOs that sell this fuel report an average of $3.68, with the lowest price of $1.94 found in the Central-states region, and the highest prices of just under $10 again found in Alaska.
One of the leading refiners of aviation fuel, Phillips 66 Aviation, was founded by brothers L.E. and Frank Phillips, and—as Phillips Petroleum Company—is credited with “propelling Allied Forces to victory during World War II with the introduction of 100-octane fuel.” The company is part of the Phillips 66 family which operates 11 refineries in the US and manages more than 21,000 miles of hydrocarbons pipelines. “As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to impact our world,” the company said to Flying, “Phillips 66 Aviation’s top priority remains the health and safety of our employees and customers. At this time, we have not encountered any issues from COVID-19 that impact our ability to maintain supply. Additionally, we have robust business continuity plans in place to help ensure we’re providing the same level of support and guidance that our customers expect.”