Renewed Focus on the Ramp: U.S. airports selling fuel? Perhaps; but ramp safety, security concerns are reality

CONFERENCE REPORT Renewed Focus On The Ramp By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director U.S. airports selling fuel? Perhaps; but ramp safety, security concerns are reality MIAMI — Jet Fuel Conference host John Armbrust asks, Wasn’t...


CONFERENCE REPORT

Renewed Focus On The Ramp

By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

U.S. airports selling fuel? Perhaps; but ramp safety, security concerns are reality


MIAMI — Jet Fuel Conference host John Armbrust asks, Wasn’t there a time when airlines selling fuel in the aftermarket seemed unlikely
(sidebar)? Today, he and others ask, are U.S. airports next? That issue, and the growing concerns about ramp safety and security, dominated the discussion at the 6th Annual International Jet Fuel/Airport Operations Conference & Exhibition in March. Some prognostications about jet-A: steady, high prices; increasing demand.

The annual event is hosted by The Armbrust Aviation Group, publisher of the Jet Fuel Report newsletter.

Armbrust ended the conference on a theme with which he began it, saying, “I will make a prediction right here: By this time next year, a major [U.S.] airport will be buying jet fuel for its airline customers.”

Some principal reasons that U.S. airports will consider for getting into the jet fuel business, say Armbrust and others, include a new revenue stream; quality control; and the ability to offer turnkey service capabilities to airlines.

In step with that thinking is an emerging concept of implementing common use ramp equipment, or CURE, by airports and/or private aircraft service providers. It is a takeoff on CUTE, or common use terminal equipment, that has emerged in airports worldwide as a way for airports to increase utilization of gates and allow entry for new carriers into their markets.

NTSB board member John Goglia, who was at the conference to help gather information for an NTSB task force looking into ramp safety and security, calls airports the common denominator when it comes to concerns about ramp activity. “Given the changes in the industry, I’m not so sure we shouldn’t have the airports take control of all of it,” he comments.

That approach is in line with that of directors at several major airports who have been discussing the potential of taking over fueling operations, as heard at recent meetings of the Airports Council International - North America.

The Moline Example
One airport which recently took over fueling and other airline services is Quad City International at Moline, IL. Brian Hodson, airport services and security manager at Moline, says revenue, safety, security, and quality assurance were reasons for the airport move.

Quad City International has 31 daily airline departures and posted a record 407,769 enplanements in 2003, according to Hodson. It also hosts a major fixed base operation, Elliott Aviation, which he says was approached by the airport to provide the services but declined.

The airport formed QCIA Air-port Services, LLC, to handle airline fueling for scheduled carriers and charters, and provides ground handling services for the latter. The fuel farm, consisting of eight storage tanks and a capacity of 149,000 gallons, was already owned by the airport. QCIA purchased two fuel trucks from the former vendor and took over the services November 1, 2003.

The new services division operates out of the former airport operations room and has three full-time and two part-time line personnel. Each airline purchases its own fuel, although QCIA orders it for them, and then the airport pumps it for a fee. The airport also purchases excess fuel for resale to charters and freighters, according to Hodson. He says the base rate for retail sales is calculated on a monthly basis. Com-mercial carriers are charged a $25 hookup fee and 5 cents/gallon, based on a sliding scale.

The airport pumps some 9,500 gallons each day, says Hodson, and has an average 25 daily hookups. Fees to the airlines were kept the same as with the previous vendor, and Hodson says the airport can now waive into-plane fees as a way to attract new carriers to QCIA.

Philosophically, says Hodson, “I believe we’re onto something,” particularly as a mechanism for mainstream and smaller airports to be more attractive to airlines for new service. He adds, however, that “the challenge would be greater at a larger airport.”

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