Flying – Coupon Style

Who has heard the line, “Look how much money I saved buying this!”? Everybody have their hand in the air? I have heard it, and am guilty of using it myself… Everyone who owns a plane knows that you are not saving money, so how does that relate to flying…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
5 Apr 2020

Who has heard the line, “Look how much money I saved buying this!”?

Everybody have their hand in the air? I have heard it, and am guilty of using it myself… Everyone who owns a plane knows that you are not saving money, so how does that relate to flying you ask?

Well…

Last Saturday Kathy and I took a flight down to Agua Caliente Springs Airport (L54) and had a picnic lunch before flying back along the coast, enjoying the beautiful views along the way. I had looked at the fuel prices before heading back, and while the FBO at Fullerton (KFUL) was their usual exorbitant price, the flight school pump was not too bad. So, instead of making a stop on the way back to top off the tanks, I planned to just fill up at AFI (the Flight School pumps on the field). I had enough to land with my personal minimum of 10 gallons, but would want fuel before taking off again. We landed at KFUL and taxied up to the pump at AFI to see that they had closed at noon and we were out of luck. Not wanting to leave the plane with just 10 gallons, (I always want enough to be able to get somewhere if something is wrong with the pumps or fuel at my home base) I called up the FBO and paid the highway robbery price to have 10 gallons pumped into the right tank.

You’re probably asking yourself right now if I’m ever going to get to the point of “Coupon Flying.” Ok, here goes.

Friday, I decided that I would go fly after work to both get fuel, and to also just get some time in the sky. Everything is shut down due to COVID-19 so the drive up the 5 Freeway from Irvine to Fullerton would be a breeze. As the work day wound on I was feeling less and less like flying, but with only enough fuel in the plane to fly and hour and still land with my personal minimum I headed to the airport. I checked Airnav for the fuel prices at the local airports and found that Riverside (KRAL) was showing $3.99/gal, that was $1.00/gal less than the FBO at KFUL! I saw my hangar neighbor who had just returned from a flight and told him about the price at KRAL, he couldn’t believe it. I told him it was so cheap I wanted to buy extra and just “put some in my pocket to save for later.” (Yes, I realize that isn’t possible…)

At the moment, I was still going flying because I needed the fuel and didn’t want to pay the extortion price, not because I really wanted to fly. After pre-flight, pulling the plane out, and completing the run-up, I received taxi clearance and made my way down Alpha to runway 24 where I had to hold short for a Grumman that was landing. He was on short final and once he landed the tower asked my destination. Upon telling Tower it was Riverside he cleared me for a left-downwind departure on 24.

I took the runway and as the plane accelerated through 70 mph I lifted off, tucked away the gear (still feels more like flying when you can retract your gear instead of just leaving it hanging down like training wheels), and then at 600′ AGL began a climbing left turn and continued my climb eastbound before leveling off at 2,500′. What had started out as a “need to fly and get fuel” turned into “I love flying” as soon as the wheels left the ground.

It was a beautiful flight, a little hazy, the sun going down, and about 15 minutes after lifting off I was touching down in Riverside and taxiing to the fuel pumps where fuel was the advertised $3.99/gallon.

Fifteen minutes and 35 gallons of 100LL Avgas later the prop was turning and I was talking to Riverside Ground for taxi clearance to 27. The sun had dipped below the horizon and I took off, making a turn to the southwest to skirt around the south side of Ontario’s Airspace. Fullerton’s Airspace is a rectangular shape with the eastern edge 7 1/2 miles from the airport. I made my normal call to the tower a mile east of the water treatment plant and it was so quiet that I was not only told to “make straight in runway two-four” but also a moment later cleared to land while still on a 10 mile final.

Fourteen minutes after lifting off at Riverside and I was touching down in Fullerton. So, how was this a “coupon style” flight? I saved $35 by buying my gas at KRAL, burned 7 gallons round trip ($28), so came out $7 ahead while still getting to fly. Seems like a win-win to me.

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