ANALYSIS: The ‘Mogas’ Study at KHIO, by KB Environmental Sciences

Based upon the research conducted in support of this assessment, the following essential findings are noteworthy:

Avgas Replacement Fuel – The FAA has established a program and performance metric to make available by 2018 an unleaded replacement fuel for leaded aviation gasoline that is usable by most GA aircraft. Following that milestone, a phase-out period for the leaded fuels would likely extend to 2024 (i.e., approximately 10 years from now) at the earliest.

Mogas Use – Although mogas has been available since the early 1980s, it is still a “niche” fuel as only 120 airports nationwide (i.e., less than one percent) presently offer it for sale. Of these, only two are in Oregon: Lebanon State and Grants Pass Airports.

Mogas Versus Avgas – The amount of mogas throughput compared to avgas varies considerably from airport-to-airport with a range of 3 to 55 percent but their involvement with mogas is seemingly unique with the based aircraft fleet playing an important role.

HIO Fleet Characteristics – Few, if any, of the airports that offer mogas compare closely to HIO in terms of total GA aircraft operational levels, fleet mix and clientele. In other words, HIO has substantially more operations and an overall GA aircraft fleet that is more “business-related” than any of the other airports evaluated.

Mogas Availability – Mogas is available from at least three distributors located proximal (i.e., <30 miles) to HIO. Depending on the volume of fuel delivered, the cost of mogas from these suppliers presently ranges from $3.25 to $3.50/gal., presently a four-year low.

Potential Mogas Use and Price at HIO – Based upon an assessment of the GA aircraft that are affiliated with HIO, as little as 8.5 percent or as much as 29.5 percent of evaluated aircraft can currently use mogas were it offered at HIO. Nearly 80 percent of those responding to survey conducted in 2014 for this study said they would purchase mogas fuel for $4.99 or less at HIO.

Business Case Assessment – The findings of this assessment show potentially favorable business outcomes for offering mogas at HIO, depending on some basic affirmative conditions, reasonable assumptions and cooperative features.

One of the more interesting elements of the study was the user survey. Here is a sample copy (from pg.16 of the PDF copy of the 59-page study) of a survey completed by a KHIO pilot:
20150202scp.. KB report on KHIO mogas, Sample Survey Response CardThe KB Mogas Study indicates 5,060 survey forms were sent out, and 315 received back. Of the 315, nearly half (149 pilots, or 47%) said they would be willing to purchase unleaded mogas instead of 100LL avgas, if the price was under $6.00 per gallon. The survey results also noted that 83% of all respondents purchased their fuel where self-service was offered.

These two points taken together suggest that, if the KHIO airport authority made a minor investment to construct a fuel-tank and self-fueling cardlock system (as has been done at Mulino and many other Oregon airports), or if they leased a pair of fuel trucks to dispense mogas, pilots would use mogas, saving money and reducing lead pollution. The key, though, is the Port of Portland has to make the investment. So far, this has not happened.

Deficiencies of the KB ‘Mogas’ Study:

Here are comments by aiREFORM.com, noting how the KB Mogas Study fails:

Avgas Replacement Fuel – The ‘study’ repeatedly presents FAA’s replacement fuel program with prominence, as if to imply FAA will produce timely and effective results. But, in fact, FAA is already more than two decades behind and continually to fail to comply with the Clean Air Act.

Mogas Use – Only two Oregon airports sell mogas, and both are tiny. Why is it that in Oregon, once universally regarded as a state where environment matters, airport authorities like PoP continue to fail to ‘lead’ GA toward environmental sustainability? The Port is failing an outstanding opportunity to not only help the environment (including the air breathed by airport workers and neighbors), but also to nudge other airports (Scappoose, Aurora, Troutdale, etc.) to likewise sell mogas … and thus reduce lead pollution in Oregon air.

Mogas Versus Avgas – There is no doubt that mogas sales can substantially cut into 100LL avgas sales at KHIO. The critical question, though, is will the airport’s largest avgas consumer, Hillsboro Aviation, become a major mogas consumer? If Hillsboro Aviation bought into this idea, we would have had mogas sales at KHIO years ago. In fact, if Hillsboro Aviation made an aggressive and proactive business decision, KHIO lead pollution could be immediately cut in half.

HIO Fleet Characteristics – This particular conclusion is superfluous garbage. KHIO is NOT a particularly ‘business-related’ airport. Yes, it does have a few based jets, and the airport is used for a few flights everyday commuting high tech workers back-and-forth to other locations in California and Arizona. But, it sees only a few dozen jet flights per day. And, this study is about avgas (not jetfuel). By far the largest consumer of avgas at KHIO is flight training, particularly by Hillsboro Aviation. The study by KB seems odd, in that, of 120 U.S. airports selling mogas, could they not find another airport with at least 150,000 local flight training operations per year? As indicated in the table below, KB selected some very minor airports to do their analysis. In fact, the slowest airport appears to be just a ranch in Idaho with two based aircraft. Two airports are comparable, for the number of based aircraft: Vance Brand in Longmont, CO, and Page Field in Fort Meyers, FL also have approximately 250 based aircraft. But, none are close to KHIO, not due to so-called ‘business flying’, but due in fact to the huge amount of flight instruction at KHIO. And based helicopters (KHIO has nearly 40!) are a core element of that flight instruction. Factoring in itinerant flights for training (e.g., cross country flights to other airports or to practice areas more than 5-miles away), easily 75-80% of all KHIO operations are for flight training. This flying is done to the benefit of Hillsboro Aviation, and at a large environmental expense to thousands of airport neighbors. Frankly, KHIO is first and foremost a training airport, with a small and generally insignificant amount of flying related to local industry and ‘business’. Why KB would seek to distort this reality is inexplicable. Perhaps it was not intentional.

Mogas Availability – This is hugely positive. With at least three distributors located with 30 miles of KHIO, and with the wholesale cost ranging from $3.25 to $3.50/gal., one has to wonder: why is the Port of Portland continuing to stand in the way of mogas sales at KHIO?

Potential Mogas Use and Price at HIO – This is also hugely positive. I.e., the reality is mogas costs much less (since it does not require the expensive lead additives), thus many pilots can and will be motivated to use mogas … so long as it is readily available. Today, although automotive fuel has dropped by more than half to even less than $2.00 per gallon, 100LL still sells at around $5.00 per gallon around the country. Clearly, given that mogas has a wholesale cost far below that of 100LL avgas, there is great potential for an airport or an FBO to reap a fair profit while also allowing pilots realize a substantial savings. Plus, as noted above in the survey results, half of pilots would pay up to $6.00 per gallon for unleaded fuel. This suggests that many pilots do care about the environment and their impact; all they need is for airport authorities to offer the better fuel product they want to consume.

Business Case Assessment – This so-called ‘assessment’ is grossly deficient. Page after page of dry spreadsheets, all predicated on the idea that an FBO (vs., the Port) has to invest more than $100,000 in up-front equipment, storage facilities, etc. In reality, while this investment is onerous to an FBO, it is a drop in the bucket to an airport authority such as PoP. And, given the huge environmental benefit of helping pilots use mogas instead of 100LL avgas, the Port should have made this investment years ago.

ATC
S
M
J
H
TOTAL
GA-lcl
GA-itin
Mil
TOTAL
%local
KHIO
KHIO
FAA
161
32
33
39
265
160,261
83,381
644
253,847
63%
Sebring (FL)
KSEF
NO
54
9
1
5
71
44,137
58,550
400
103,087
43%
Vance Brand Longmont (CO)
KLMO
NO
234
18
2
7
277
70,000
29,980
10
99,990
70%
Page Field (FL)
KFMY
FCT
191
50
9
2
252
40,670
49,440
234
94,666
43%
Lee’s Summit (MO)
KLXT
NO
136
14
1
2
153
33,350
14,950
518
50,543
66%
Southern Maine (ME)
KSFM
NO
80
13
0
3
97
28,320
16,830
30
47,460
60%
Fayetteville (AR)
KFYV(?)
FCT
89
12
8
4
113
11,509
15,944
796
28,859
40%
Grants Pass (OR)
3S8
NO
124
14
1
5
150
6,500
18,000
100
25,000
26%
Lebanon State (OR)
S30
NO
50
2
0
0
55
4,150
5,305
0
9,855
42%
Norridgewock (ME)
KOWK
NO
45
1
0
0
50
6,900
2,900
20
9,820
70%
Anderson (ID)
ID12
NO
2
0
0
0
2
0
0
0
0
NOTES:
  • ATC: FAA(FAA-staffed control tower), FCT(contract tower), NO(no tower)
  • Based aircraft: S(single prop), M(multi prop), J(jet), H(helicopter)
  • Annual Operations: GA(general aviation), GA-lcl(local pattern), GA-itin(itinerant), Mil(military)
  • %local: equals GA-lcl as a percentage of TOTAL Ops
  • Most data compiled from 5010 forms at: http://www.gcr1.com/5010web/