South Carolina operator tells how smaller airports and FBOs can justify a hydrant fueling system
By John Boyce, Contributing Editor
Although by no means a crusader, Mike Shouse is issuing a clarion call to airports of similar size and private FBOs that the profitability, among other things, of fueling operations can be enhanced with the installation of a hydrant fueling system.
Anderson Regional Airport in Anderson, SC, handles "roughly 80,000 operations" a year of corporate jet, cargo, and private piston aircraft in the northwest corner of the state. Shouse, its director, is in the process of installing a jet and avgas hydrant fueling system at the airport, which is generally considered out of the price range of most smaller airports and private fixed base operators. Shouse doesn't think so.
The installation cost at Anderson is expected to be in the neighborhood of $120,000 — excluding the cost of relocating the three 12,000-gallon tank fuel farm closer to the proposed island fueling area. Initially, Shouse, who has previous experience with hydrant fueling at a smaller airport (Elizbethton, TN), thought that justifying jet fuel volume for a hydrant system would fall between 500,000 and 1 million gallons per year —his airport's current volume. However, upon consideration, he says he doesn't see any minimum limitation.
"Frankly," Shouse says, "there should be no bottom limitation. A 50,000-gallon a year operation can justify a small hydrant system and, in fact, in that situation, with so low a fuel volume, it would be a lot more cost-effective than it would be to operate a truck... A way to categorize it: You have your zero to 800,000 to 1 million gallon fueling operation — that's one style of hydrant system. Then you get into your very large hydrant, engineered designs at medium and large hubs where they're running hydrant systems for the airlines.
"I really don't believe you need a minimum number of gallons (for a small hydrant system). If you're starting out an FBO business and, say, you're one of two or three on the airfield and you want to ensure success financially, building your business with hydrant (fuel) may very well be the best route to go."
By a cost-benefit analysis, Shouse had no problem convincing the airport board of the fiscal benefit of the hydrant system. Tenants weren't quite so easy, although Shouse thinks they will come around.
He explains, "There is some perceived luxury having the trucks over the hydrant system. The last airport I came from, the hydrant system had been there for many, many years and was well received and not at all considered an inconvenience. I think it's a byproduct of change — it's human nature to accept change slowly.
"...I suspect that there will be some naysayers when they read of this concept. ...(but) if you're really trying to tweak your operation for profitability, you're going to be compelled to look at the hydrant system. It all depends on how profit-oriented you ultimately want to be."
With elimination of refuelers and the centralization of the fueling operation, Shouse projects significant cost savings in labor and equipment, and a commensurate increase in efficiency.
But eliminating fueling trucks goes far beyond simple maintenance and labor costs. "It's all about the actual cost of putting the hydrant system in versus the cost to purchase and maintain the trucks and the liability issues that go with trucks," he says.
"Everything you can do in an airport operation to minimize liabilities is good. One area of liability you can eliminate with the hydrant system is the moving of trucks in and around these aircraft.
"If the aircraft are properly greeted and signaled when they come in on the ramp and they're positioned correctly with a well-designed hydrant system, it's just as user friendly as any truck operation."
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