Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Upper Cumberland Regional Airport (KSRB) looking to replace faulty jet refueler

Upper Cumberland Regional Airport manager Jim Kmet inspects the airport’s jet refueler, which he says continually needs repairs. Kmet asked the UCRA board to consider purchasing a newer model truck during last night’s monthly meeting.

UPPER CUMBERLAND — Every day, it’s a new problem.

A gas spill here, a faulty switching mechanism there.

Now, Upper Cumberland Regional Airport manager Jim Kmet says it’s time for out with the old and in with something new when it comes to the airport’s jet refueler truck.

And that’s what Kmet — after having looked into four jet refueler refurbishing companies — discussed with the airport board when they came together last night for their monthly meeting.

“I’ve got several options I would like to see the board consider,” he said. “I’d like to be able to go buy a truck tomorrow, but I know that’s not going to happen.”

One of the companies, American Refueler in Birmingham, has two trucks of particular interest to Kmet — a 2005 Chassis-cab for $90,000 and a 2002 International for $87,500.

“I’ve worked with American Refueler quite a lot on ours as far as getting them to send us parts and diagnosing problems,” he said. “I’m very comfortable with their level of service so far.”

He went on to discuss the condition of the airport’s current jet refueler — a 1973 Ford Chassis with a 1984 fueling system — that is used in every jet fuel sale.

“We spent close to $200 in July for repairs,” he said. “We still have another problem as of today.”

But the problems go back even further.

“We have continual breakdowns,” he told the Herald-Citizen.

“In January, the power steering went out, and it took us three weeks to get the part remanufactured because they don’t make them anymore.”

Which resulted in a loss of several thousand gallons in fuel sales, he said.

Once that was fixed, a fuel seal broke in February.

“The day the power steering was fixed, two hours later, the seal blew, and we spilled 150 gallons of jet fuel,” Kmet said. “It was a very expensive cleanup — close to $6,000.”

What’s more, the truck won’t pump fuel “when it’s cold,” he said.

And the repairs keep adding up.

“We probably spent around three or four thousand dollars on it since then, updating the lines and some of the switches and regulators, and other things continue to break,” he said.

Why is it important to have a reliable truck?

“We’ll lose fuel sales without it, simple as that,” Kmet told the H-C. “Our fuel sales will go down. Our source of revenue will go down.”

Board member Paul Bailey told Kmet, “Obviously, I’m a conservative, and I like to save as much money as possible, but at the same time it appears that we’re selling a lot of aviation fuel, and if this is what you’re using to fuel those planes, and if we make an investment, it could be something for the future.”

Mike Atwood added, “I think it’s very important that you go and evaluate what they (American Refueler) have and make a decision based on your experience and knowledge about what you think we need.”

Kmet noted that the 2005 truck would not be available until October.

“In the meantime, I’ve got a truck sitting out there that I don’t feel is safe,” he said. “It needs some more work as of this morning… I could tell customers we’ll have a truck come Oct. 1, but I would hate to tell them that we just don’t have a truck and we don’t know if we ever will — because once you get word out that you don’t have a truck, they’re going to come with more fuel when they land. So, it’s going to limit us in the future.”

The board then moved to authorize a trip to Birmingham for Kmet to evaluate the jet refuelers there. Kmet said he expects to go within the next 10 days.

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