Monday, January 23, 2012

Fuel Sales Are Down At Menominee-Marinette Twin County Airport (KMNM), Menominee, Michigan.

At the Airport Commission meeting held on December 21 acting manager Jeff LaFleur indicated that fuel sales were down. He stated that the lower sales were due to the fact that KSU is not shipping out pistons by aircraft like they were doing in previous months. He also indicated that jet fuel sales were down. Some of the reduction in fuel sales is attributed to it being winter resulting in less flight traffic. Menominee County News is scheduled to review fuel sales records from the past three years to determine if there is a trend and will report our findings in another article.

Recently we contacted several airport users who reluctantly admitted that they are now fueling in Iron Mountain or elsewhere. This is in part because they are bringing their aircraft to Iron mountain and to Tim Spreen for routine maintenance and servicing. In the recent past, aviation mechanical services were provided at the Twin county Airport by Tim Spreen, previous airport Manager. Losing Spreen as the Airport manager has deeper repercussions than merely day to day operations of the airport. It leaves the airport without maintenance services and eliminates a certified aviation mechanic on site.

Unfortunately for Menominee County, Iron Mountain is only a 15-20 minute flight from the Twin County Airport. Spreen is currently employed in Iron Mountain and available to provide routine maintenance and service to many of the Menominee County Pilots. Since Spreen’s departure, the commission has not held discussion regarding adding an aviation mechanic to the airport staff or looking into the possibility of contracting for regular maintenance services at the airport.

Pilots also admitted being reluctant to fuel in Menominee without an airport manager overseeing LaFleur’s daily activities particularly concerning problems from a year ago regarding sumping of the airport fuel tanks. Many expressed concerns about the safety of the fuel being sold at the airport citing the past problems with water in the fuel tanks.

It was discovered last year that LaFleur neglected to perform routine testing of the tanks, a part of his lineman duties, resulting in the discovery of water and bacterial contamination of the fuel that ended up costing the airport over $5,000. It was further discovered that LaFleur fraudulently documented testing of the tanks on days when he was not on the job or even at the airport. At that time, the airport commission tried unsuccessfully to fire LaFleur.

It will be interesting to see if Explorer Solutions will identify any of these pilot concerns as an area for improvement when they report their final analysis of the airport to the airport commission. It is noteworthy to mention that these items rank very high on the list of importance by many of the airport users/pilots.

The pilots and hangar owners also mentioned a survey distributed to them in 2010. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that 30 surveys were completed by pilots, hangar owners and commercial operators that were using the airport on a frequent basis at that time. The result of the survey is listed below.

Four questions and their answers are as follows:

1. How would you rate the airport manager?

Answer: 23 Excellent, 4 Good and 1 Poor

2. How would you rate the way the airport is managed and maintained?

Answer: 24 Excellent, 4 Good and 1 Poor

3. How would you rate the 24/7 open door policy, overall airport security and gate operations?

Answer: 27 Excellent, 3 Good and 1 poor

4. How would you rate the overall performance of the airport?

Answer: 23 excellent, 1 Good and 0 poor

Some of the pilots interviewed indicated they would not rank the airport management as high now and speculate if they would be willing to participate in another survey. They wonder if the current commission is even interested in their input or thoughts. The pilots have indicated that they believe the last survey didn’t seem to accomplish much especially since their opinion on Spreen and his management of the airport haven't seemed to matter as evidenced by Spreen's departure. These pilots indicated that the commission should have done more to retain Spreen as the airport manager.

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