Sept. 18--MARIANNA -- When it comes to refueling planes, especially after hours, pilots will soon have a new service option at the Marianna Municipal Airport, one that's not only convenient, but likely cheaper as well.
Currently, if a plane needs fuel outside the airport's daily hours of operation, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., pilots have to contact airport staff and arrange for someone to come out and fuel the craft. But that cumbersome process could soon be a thing of the past.
In the works is the purchase of an above-ground fueling system, with an attached credit card machine, that will allow for self-service fueling 24 hours a day. If things go as planned, fuel from the new system may even be offered at a discounted price.
At the Sept. 11 special meeting, commissioners voted to approve a Joint Participation Agreement between the Marianna and the Florida Department of Transportation, to install the new airport amenity. The JPA describes the project scope to include the "purchase and placement of a fuel tank with accessories and a credit card reader including all hook ups."
Typically a packaged unit, the above-ground fuel tank and credit card machine comes preassembled and would be made operational by the vendor. The fueling system, as City Manager Jim Dean described it to commissioners, would allow pilots to pull their plane up and use their credit cards for refueling, regardless of whether airport staff was on duty at the time.
"We're one of the few smaller airports that don't have this," Dean said, but the move isn't meant to replace the airport's current full-service fueling option.
Budgeted funding, according to the JPA, is $100,000 in aviation-related money from the state agency. Dean said the project would be "100 percent" paid for by FDOT in the form of a grant to the City of Marianna.
In response to a question about the cost of the unit from Commissioner Paul Donofro Jr., Dean said he'd seen estimates of $40,000 to $75,000 on similar products. Donofro then asked if remaining JPA grant dollars, should there be any, could be used for other purposes.
"We typically are able to do that," Dean said, but added that upgrades to the base fueling system were available and, "if we have the ability to add additional features to the unit, we would like to."
The city will bid it out the base unit so that all vendors bid on the same system. Once initial bids are in, and if leftover grant money is available, that's when additional capacity, filtration/circulation add-ons and other options will be considered.
To further entice small aircraft, a self-serve discount is likely to be offered for pilots making use of the new fuel system. The amount of that discount has yet to be determined.
The JPA's listed completion date is June 30, 2015. City officials are hopeful the new service offering, when it arrives, will increase traffic at the Marianna airport.
Copyright 2013 - Jackson County Floridan, Marianna, Fla.
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