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Some call for self-service fueling at airport, but cost effectiveness in doubt
Feb 10, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer
Costs apparently exceed the means of both the City of Riverton and the airport's fuel operator.
The idea of having a self-service fuel for pilots at Riverton Regional Airport has come before the airport board, but officials tabled it for the time being until they can determine how cost effective it could be.
Several general aviation pilots with non-commercial airplanes have expressed interest in self-service fuel, but it could take up to five or six years to break even, said Jim Steinhoff, owner of Jim's Aircraft Service.
His company is the active fixed-based operator for Riverton Regional Airport, providing fueling, aircraft parking and maintenance services.
Steinhoff said his fueling service already is available for pilots 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He doubted self service wold be viable for his business.
"It just doesn't make sense," Steinhoff said. "Especially when I look at the local pilots and their ages."
Steinhoff said most current aviation students can't afford their own airplanes, and not many older pilots would be expected to refuel at Riverton Regional Airport without assistance.
"There's a little bit more costs involved than just purchasing a fuel tank," airport division manager Paul Griffin said. "It would be great if it was cost effective."
Griffin said additional amenities such as a phone line and installation would give the project a higher price tag.
Airport board member Bob Steen said despite the revenue it could bring to the airport, the service would need private investment.
"I did a little research on this, and I found out that self fueling is pretty much not available for public funding," Steen said.
"This is not something the city could really get involved in. It's going to depend upon investors or FBOs."
Steen said his research also showed how more revenue could come from other pilots not just local. T
he smallest systems can be purchased for $35,000 but Steinhoff said that deal can be hard to find.
Plus, he said, buying the cheapest system isn't always the best or safest path.
Urbigkit said funds from the Wyoming Department of Trans-portation possibly could help.
"As long as it's a revenue-generating project there is funding available through WYDOT Aeronautics," Urbigkit said.
He added that if the state chose to fund this service to Riverton Regional Airport it would affect the business the airport does with the FBO.
"If we do that, we put Jim out of business," Urbigkit said.
He suggested buying the equipment, buying the fuel from Jim's Aircraft Service, and having Steinhoff run it. A productive, successful partnership with private enterprises is what Urbigkit said airport officials would prefer to use to bring in revenue.
Aeronautics at Legislature
Senate File 16, which is aimed at changing some areas in the aeronautics programs passed in the Senate and has been introduced in the House and was referred to the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee at the Wyoming Legislative session.
Sponsored by the Management Audit Committee, the air services enhancement program does not directly affect Riverton Regional Airport but does apply to airports in Wyoming in general.
If approved, the file would simply change loan approval requirements from one department to another and change some terms in the air services enhancement program.
The file passed in the Transportation and Highways Committee. Griffin said he recently visited with legislatures and Gov. Matt Mead to express his support to continue funding airports in the state.
"It affects Wyoming operators as a whole," Griffin said. "Many rely on that funding."
Budgets cuts, especially in WYDOT's Air Service Program, is what Griffin said other airport managers hope to avoid.
In looking closer at Senate File 16 Urbigkit said the program could do better.
"It certainly appears to us that the enhanced air service money is going to become less and less," he said.
"And the match that the local airport has to provide is going to become more and more."