Letter Re: AVGAS as an Alternative Source of Gasoline During Spot Shortages

I’m sort of reluctant to share this because, well, I might need to do it someday and its value is in the fact that most people don’t know it.

During Hurricane Ike my uncle, who lives in Houston, acquired use of a generator. That’s an interesting story in itself so I’ll divert for a second and elaborate: He didn’t own a generator but his next door neighbor did. Unfortunately, the neighbor had never run the generator and when they needed it, it wouldn’t start. My uncle is a trained mechanic (former career) and was able to fix it. In return for his help, the neighbor allowed my uncle to run an extension cord over to his house to keep the fridge and freezer going. This underscores the importance of having practical skills. Even if you can’t afford to store a lot of tangibles, having valuable skills can allow you to barter work for the things you need. I know you’ve said that a million times. Well there’s a shining example of the truth in it.

Back to the point I wanted to make: They didn’t have enough gas for the generator and quickly ran out. The stations were out, and even if they had gas, there was no power to pump it. So… My uncle is also a private pilot and flies out of a local general aviation airport. Almost all public airports sell AVGAS, [(aviation gasoline), one grade of] which is just highly refined 100 octane gasoline. It works fine in both cars and equipment [such as generators]. Nobody was flying in or out, which left the airport well stocked with gas and apparently, they also had a way to pump it. He drove up there and bought all he wanted. The only people who thought to buy avgas were other pilots. They bought all they could use. No lines, no competition, no fighting.

I’m not suggesting this as an alternative to keep a sufficient supply of fuel on hand. But it’s an additional resource if your supply runs out. As I read about the gas shortages in the southeast (right now), all I can think is that there are probably dozens if not hundreds of pilots gassing their cars up with avgas… and doing it very quietly. Best, – Matt R.

JWR Replies: Thanks for that reminder. (Using AVGAS in ground vehicles has been mentioned a few times in the blog.) Just keep in mind that there could be road tax issues, at least in most English-speaking countries. Also, most AVGAS (such as 100LL), is made in leaded formulations and those are not compatible for use with many of the newer vehicles that have catalytic converters. (Since leaded formulations quickly degrade catalytic converters.)