Friday, March 21, 2014

Tracy Municipal Airport (KTCY), California

Prices drop as city resumes airport fuel sales

They’re selling aviation fuel again at Tracy Municipal Airport, and it’s sure a lot cheaper than it used to be.

“They” in this case is the City of Tracy, which took over fuel-service operations Feb. 4 after terminating a multiyear contract with Steve Stuhmer’s Turlock Air Center.

It has taken a bit longer than expected to make the transition from Stuhmer to the city operation of the self-service fuel service — mostly because of credit card changes — but the self-service pump went back into service last week, reported Bruce Ludeman, the city’s airport coordinator.

“We are now beginning to sell aviation fuel, but it will take awhile to get the word out that we have competitive prices again,” he said. “There are several websites listing the prices of fuel, and we are in those already.”

While Stuhmer was selling fuel at the airport, before his contract was terminated for not complying with a number of contract provisions, the price hit $6.57 a gallon. Now it is down to $5.25 a gallon.

The higher price charged here reduced the amount of fuel pumped here, as many pilots went to other area airports to fill their tanks.

Ludeman said the city aims for a modest markup of 50 cents a gallon, and $5.25 is in the competitive range where most fuel at regional airports is priced.

Tuesday night, the City Council allocated $40,000 to purchase 8,300 gallons of aviation fuel to be sold at the airport.

Another cost in front of the city is a study outlining provisions to prevent spills from the airport’s aboveground fuel tanks and to respond to potential spills.

That study, required by the Federal Aviation Administration, was due to be completed two years ago. Doing so was one of the contract provisions that Stuhmer failed to perform.

“We expect to get moving on the study in the next several months,” Ludeman said.

The staff report accompanying the fuel-purchase item on the City Council’s Tuesday agenda indicated that a recommendation about long-term fuel operations at the city-owned airport would be made later.

One of the bids on a new contract could come from Richard Ortenheim, the president of SkyView Aviation, the airport’s major tenant. The major stumbling block, he said, was a $50,000 upfront annual fee the contract holder has in the past been required to come up with.

Regardless of who sells the fuel, Ortenheim feels the lower fuel price gives him more confidence that staying at the airport makes business sense.

He said he was applying for a Part 141 FAA license that would allow SkyView to start a full-scale flight-training school where students from the U.S. and other countries would stay on site for consecutive months while receiving full-time instruction.

“There’s a growing shortage of airline pilots, so prospects are good,” he said. “We could have 50 to 100 students here at one time for six to nine months at a time.”

At present, student pilots take lessons on weekends or when they have free time.