If you know me (and if you’re bothering to actually read this blog, there’s a good chance that’s true), you know I’m an aviation “enthusiast,” to put it mildly. I won’t publicly admit I’m crazy about aviation because the FAA might ground me for mental health reasons, but I’m sure you can draw your own unscientific and unproven-in-a-court-of-law conclusions. I love to fly. I love to fly because you can’t beat the views. I love to fly because it takes skill and concentration but is simultaneously exciting and relaxing. I love to fly because I can take day-trips to places it would take others a weekend to make.
When I try to share my “passion” for aviation, it’s not uncommon for me to hear responses like:
That must be fun, but flying is really expensive, right? I mean, I’ve heard aviation gas is really pricey.
I worry sometimes that folks are using the assumption of avgas price as an excuse to never consider learning to fly. Becoming a pilot, of course, is not for everyone; and yes, avgas costs more per gallon than car gas; but it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.
To help illustrate, let’s look at the fuel and time costs for cars versus airplanes. The devil’s in the details, they say, so I’m going to use a whole bunch of averages and assumptions I pulled from some quick Google searches.
Exact results will vary, of course; but to get things started, let’s list out my assumptions:
- Traveling as a family of 4
- 2 adults
- 1 teenager
- 1 less-than-6-year-old
- Driving at posted road speed limits for the route
- Fuel burn is 23.6 miles per gallon (national average)
- Gas is $3 per gallon (national average)
- Flying an average (and extremely common) Cessna 172
- Cruising at 140 mph
- Burns about 9 gallons per hour, so we’ll get about 15.5 miles per gallon at cruise speed
- Avgas is $5.20 per gallon (national average)