SolarWorld solar blog

Oshkosh Part 4: Burning dinosaurs at Oshkosh

Posted 28 July 2011 12:00 AM by Amy Keiter, Community Relations Manager

Being here at Oshkosh promoting solar electric-powered flight with the PC-Aero team, it’s hard to ignore the fact that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 aircraft here, of which 9,994 are powered by burning dinosaurs…I mean, fossil fuels.

There are six different manufacturers of electric-powered planes sharing the Innovation Hangar with us at AirVenture, and we’re all getting a lot of interest. But I don’t think the aviation fuel industry has much to worry about from us electric-powered upstarts.

I decided to go in search of some hard data about the fuel consumption here at Oshkosh early this morning. I called Mary Gomez, the operations manager for Basler Flight Service, one of the two fuel companies servicing the aircraft here at the show. She told me that they do about one-quarter of their annual business this week. With a fleet of 14 av-gas (aviation fuel) and 6 jet-fuel trucks, her team will gas up about 7,000 planes during the show, including the military planes that participate at AirVenture. (Av gas, incidentally, is more expensive than the gas you fill your car with: it’s selling for $5.39 a gallon here at the AirShow, and Gomez added that she didn’t raise the price for the show.)

But how many gallons of fuel are consumed at AirVenture? For that information, I first went to show PR director Dick Knapinski, who squinted his eyes, scratched his head, threw out a ballpark number of 40,000 gallons and dashed off to deal with a real reporter’s needs, rather than my little blog post.

That answer was useful, but not sufficient. Next stop: ConocoPhillips Plaza, where I spoke to Mike Williams, who manages the fueling of the incredible number of military aircraft at the show. He told me that his team pumped 10,000 gallons yesterday. He estimates that a 1940’s era B-17 bomber sips about 150 gallons an hour. But evidently the Department of Defense has not focused on fuel-efficiency in aircraft development. “It’s mind-boggling,” Williams told me. “The Blue Angels were giving one-hour rides to VIPs yesterday and they’re gulping 800 gallons per hour. I filled ‘em up twice.”

I asked Mary Gomez if she was concerned about electric-powered aircraft eating into her profits, and she laughed. “Maybe I’ll be putting up battery poles next year,” she said and apologizing hurriedly, got off the phone to dispatch a fuel truck to a pilot ready to take off.

Airforce jet at AirVenture airshow
Some planes sip jet fuel, while others gulp it