Fuel economy today is a concern not as a matter of availability, but as a matter of ecological stewardship. In the mid 1970s, however, the worldwide Arab oil embargo during 1973 and 1974 and the attendant gas shortage was fresh in everyone's minds. I vividly recall sitting in a gas station line in the family car when there was a government mandated limit of 10 gallons per car. Per one source, in May 1973 the average gasoline price was 38.5¢ per gallons ($2.06 in 2015 dollars per BLS Inflation Calculator). By June 1974, it had risen to 55 cents¢ ($2.95 in 2015.). Incidentally, per the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the average gas price in the U.S. today is $2.77 - interesting, non?
Why bring up the subject? Well, while reading an April 1977 edition of the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) Confidential Newsletter, I saw a comparison of miles per gallon for commercial airplanes, private airplanes, and some typical cars of the day. Numbers are presented in both "Plane M.P.G." and "Seat M.P.G." (SMPG) The former is based on a single occupant while the latter is for all seats occupied (note, though, that commercial jet '"full occupancy is considered to be 55.4% per contemporary averages). A Boeing 747 averaged 40.7 SMPG while a Concord SST averaged 16.2. A Beechcraft Bonanza yielded 88.8 Seat MPG and a Cessna 150 got 43.6. By comparison, a Cadillac got 64 SMPG (16 MPG w/single occupant) and a Datsun B-210 average a whopping 34 MPG. Today's Ford F-250 pickup trucks get about what the Cadillac did in 1977. My Jeep Patriot averages 26 MPG on the open road (22 MPG otherwise). My daughter's Toyota Prius gets 55 MPG.
BTW, in 1977 I was just getting started on obtaining my Private Pilot license, and I joined the AOPA and the EAA as part of an effort to get saturated in all things aviation. Doing so augmented my heavy involvement in model airplanes and rockets. Even at $16/hour solo and $22/hour with an instructor, lessons stretched way out on an electrician's income, and I failed to get my FAA check ride in before leaving for the USAF. I completed ground school, passed the written test, and had the instructor sign-off after 45 hours of logged flight, but as a result of the interruption, I never did get my license. Heavy sigh.
Posted on July 14, 2015