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Second airport FBO would step on toes

Donna Daniels
Staff Writer

Garfield County Airport’s fixed base operator may get some competition in the near future.

The Flight Department, an aircraft charter and maintenance company at the county airport, has applied to the county for FBO status, authorizing it to sell aviation fuel.

The county receives a portion of the fuel sales and authorizes the current FBO, Corporate Aircraft Services.

Another FBO could be an economic boon for the county in attracting new aircraft business. but it could undercut the present FBO’s operations.

The Garfield County commissioners considered the matter Monday, but postponed a decision until June 17 to give new airport manager Brian Condie time to thoroughly review the application.

If it gets a green light, The Flight Department would compete with Corporate Aircraft Services, which has been the airport’s sole FBO for 18 years.

Flight Department president Andrew Doremus said becoming the airport’s second FBO is a logical step. Besides providing attended fuel service, he proposes an after-hours, self-serve option at a discounted price for small planes.

It would work much like an after-hours self-serve gas station, where a driver swipes a credit card in the gas pump and fuels up.

“We provide all the services of an FBO except fuel sales,” Doremus said. “The airport sold 800,000 gallons last year. We see ample room for another operator. We feel it would improve the airport and bring in more customers.”

Corporate Aircraft Services officials said any sales The Flight Department would make would take away from their earnings.

“A reduction in our fuel sales will greatly diminish our service,” said Bill Pence, manager of Corporate Aircraft’s aircraft operations.

Doremus disagreed, saying he planned on capturing only about 20 percent of the fuel sales.

“I think competition is good for the customer,” he said. “I know it’s stepping into someone else’s sandbox.”

Condie said the Federal Aviation Act prohibits exclusive FBOs at airports that receive federal funding such as Garfield County Airport. However, FAA has unofficially supported sole FBOs in the past.

“What The Flight Department is requesting is appropriate to open and fair competition and would be a benefit to the community,” Condie said.

On the other hand, the airport does not need an additional fuel source until the runway and taxiway extensions now under construction are completed, he said.

At that point, “demand will increase sharply,” he added.

That project is expected to be completed in 2004.

Condie took issue with one aspect of Doremus’ application, saying the location and design of the fuel tanks were not detailed.

County Commissioner Larry McCown said he’d spoken to many pilots who use the airport and heard complaints about both Corporate Aircraft Services and The Flight Department.

“There’s room for improvement here,” he said.

He also urged both companies, assuming The Flight Department gets the OK to become an FBO, to work to attract more business to the airport.

In particular, he told them to urge air courier services such as FedEx and UPS, which fly in and out of the county airport every day, to buy fuel there as well. Those companies now fuel up at Walker Field in Grand Junction, he said.


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