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Craig Field improvements on the way

The board of directors of the Craig Field Airport and Industrial Authority is making plans to go forward with a major project that will benefit pilots.

The board recently met with a representative from Southeastern Petroleum, a company that installs self-service fuel islands for aircraft.

The authority is considering construction of the island in light of recent problems with supporting airplanes. Pilots complained this week that the airport’s fixed base operator is ill equipped to consistently provide fuel service.

The board still has to make decisions on what type of service it wants to provide before determining a time frame and total cost of the project.

Some of the variables include whether the airport will provide avgas or Jet A fuel or both.

“The Jet A hangup about pump service is you’re going to have to have someone out here running a truck,” said Paul Gainus with Southeastern Petroleum. “If you’re not going to have someone running a truck, you probably don’t need Jet A self service. You can make it a total self-service site. It’s a decision you need to make.”

Jet airplanes normally park further away from refueling stations, making it more difficult for one person to handle hoses that typically weighs about 100 pounds.

Other considerations are liability insurance (which ranges from $50 million to $100 million), dispensers ($12,000 to $14,000), card readers ($11,000) and upgrades to the airport’s current system.

“The pumping units will give you the flow rate you need. That’s really not the issue,” Gainus said. “The issue would be cost. On your underground piping, with the lines, you’re probably looking at $100 a foot. And you’re running two lines.”

Craig Field Executive Director Menzo Driskell said the site the airport is considering for its island is 600 feet away from the existing pumps.

Gainus added that some oil companies package their fuel services with card readers and refuel trucks, giving airports a cost break.

Board member Frank Smith wondered whether it would be more cost efficient to man a new fuel truck instead of building the self-service island.

“We need to do an analysis on what it would cost to have a refuel center and what it would be to actually operate a refuel truck,” Smith said. “Because once you do that, you’re talking about humans. You’ve got to bring in workman’s compensation insurance and all other things to think about, plus a salary. It might be cheaper to run the $100-per-foot line.”