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Self-service fueling proposed for airport

By Staff
Existing system has some flaws, reports controller
By MIKE VOSS
Contributing Editor
Washington officials, including the City Council, are studying the feasibility of implementing a self-service fueling system at Warren Field Airport.
Earlier this year, the city contracted with Tradewind Aviation to manage the airport. That contract includes a provision the city provide a $50,000 subsidy to Tradewind during the first year of its operation at the airport.
Tripp told the council it appears Tradewind Aviation, so far this year, is losing money. He told the council that if the city were operating the airport it would be losing from $4,000 to $6,000 a month.
City Manager James C. Smith told the council “it will take some time to build up business” at the airport. He also said there’s been more activity at the airport since Tradewind Aviation began operating it.
Tripp’s memorandum tells the mayor and council that one way to reduce expenses and increase revenues is to install a self-serve fueling system to replace the airport’s existing full-serve fueling system that uses fuel trucks. That full-service system requires an employee at the airport drive a fuel truck to an aircraft.
Initial estimates indicate it would cost about $50,000 to convert the airport’s existing fueling system into a self-service fueling system, according to Tripp. It would take about three years for “that cost to be recovered via savings on fuel truck rental expenses,” Tripp wrote.
Tripp suggested two options. One option would be to determine the feasibility of renegotiating the fuel-truck rental agreement; the other option calls for providing full-service and self-service systems until the fuel-truck rental agreement expires.
Tripp’s memorandum notes that the method of transferring fuel from storage tanks to the fuel trucks is hazardous — a risk of explosion because of top loading. A self-serve fueling system would do away with the expensive operation of fuel trucks and eliminate the hazard associated with transferring fuel from the storage tanks to the fuel trucks, the memorandum reads.
If the full-service fueling system is retained, “it would be required to adapt the fuel farm to ‘bottom loading’ in order to correct the unsafe condition,” Tripp wrote in the memorandum.
Tripp estimates the cost for implementing the safety modification at $45,000. If a self-service fueling system is installed, that cost can be eliminated, according to the memorandum.
Tripp told the council a self-serve fuel system would be “certainly good for after hours” because pilots could taxi their aircraft to the fueling area and refuel without requiring an airport employee to assist them.
Renting the fuel trucks is not profitable, Tripp said.
The existing fueling system limits revenues the city can earn because fueling only occurs during day-time operations, Tripp noted.