Saturday, September 17, 2016

Better fuel system, better airport

Mike Thern is the fixed-base operator at Rushford Municipal Airport and once fixed aircraft there. Now, he works on his two planes.

RUSHFORD — One of the boasts of the Rushford Municipal Airport is that is has some of the cheapest aviation fuel around - $3.90 a gallon as of last week.

Airport officials try to keep prices low to better attract more airplanes, said Mike Thern, fixed base operator at the airport about three miles west of Rushford. "We're on the map now because we're a good fuel stop."

For a while, the airport was on the map for something it hasn't been able to brag about — the condition of its fuel tank, dispenser and credit card reader, he said. When the old above-ground tank was cleaned recently, it knocked loose debris from the inside The debris fouled the filters and the pump "went problematic," he said. "All the circuits started to go berserk."

Sales crashed.

The airport has since fixed the old system and is in the process of taking care of it permanently by replacing the tank, pump and card reader, he said.

Replacement will cost $258,000, not including some engineering and other fees, said Rushford City Clerk Kathy Zacher. Of that, the city has a federal grant that will pay 90 percent of the cost, the Minnesota Department of Transportation will pay 5 percent and the city will pay 5 percent. City money will come from hangar rentals, lease of some land and tax dollars if needed.

Work could begin this fall but won't be done this year, she said. The contract allows for work to be finished next year without penalty.

Thern said the airport, with its 3,200-foot runway, isn't big enough for jets but can land most private propeller-driven airplanes. He once did airplane repairs, too. But now he only works on his own two planes and gives lessons now and then.

He takes care of fuel, and the office, where people can relax and have a root beer float. The airport also has a courtesy car that pilots can use to drive into Rushford for food, shopping or even spending the night. The airport gets six to 12 airplanes a week, he said, and is open in winter. All 12 hangars are rented out, he said.

The city got the airport because local businessman Robb Bunke wanted a place to fly out of and into.


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