Staff Photo: Erin Evans
Douglas Durham of Snellville prepares for an annual check of his 1969 Piper Cherokee 140, which is based at Covington Municipal Airport. Durham said he has been flying for 20 years, and this particular plane has always been based at the Covington airport. Durham has been part owner of the plane for five years. Some aviators who have planes at the airport complained to the city recently about the availability of aviation fuel and hours of operation for the fixed base operator.
COVINGTON Aviators have complained that the fixed base operator at Covington Municipal Airport is not providing adequate fuel for their planes and has not been maintaining required hours of operation.
The city of Covington recently received a complaint from Donald N. Young with Standridge Color Corporation, which houses five aircraft at the airport for business use. Young said that Standridge has been unable to get aviation fuel or adequate quantities of fuel multiple times and that the FBO was closed the morning of March 2. Another local pilot also complained that the FBO was closed on that date, according to City Manager Steve Horton.
"When we fail to get the service that we are guaranteed in our lease, then we get very concerned. It is becoming more of an issue that we expect not to have any type of fuel 100 percent of the time and have to have a contingency plan for the lack of fuel, which is now the first question our pilots ask when planning a departure out of Covington," Young's letter stated.
Horton sent a letter to fixed base operator Atlanta East Aviation President Bob Riddell on March 3 notifying him that the Airport Operating Agreement states that the FBO is required to provide for the sale and into-plane delivery of aviation fuels and lubricants at least eight hours per day, seven days per week, 360 days per year except for emergency temporary interruptions. The agreement also requires provision of a lounge and waiting area and restroom facilities open to the public during daylight hours.
Riddell responded that the fuel issues are due to the ongoing construction project at the airport, noting that the fuel farm has been closed since July and fuel trucks are being used to keep planes fueled. Riddell said employing the fuel trucks has been a "logistical nightmare," given that two aircraft can empty the truck in less than 30 minutes.
Riddell also stated the FBO was closed the morning of March 2 due to a delay in his arrival due to snow and an employee who was ill and did not report to work.
"I could go on and on and explain each reason, but the fact is we still do not have an operational fuel farm and these events will continue to arise as long as we don't," Riddell said.
Horton said work on getting the fuel farm up and running will begin this week. Mayor Kim Carter said concerns about the FBO may be discussed at the city's retreat, taking place at the FFA-FCCLA Center through today.
"Personally, I am getting really annoyed at the constant complaints. That really tells you you've got a problem," Carter said, adding the city may be making operational changes to the airport in the future.
"You pay ad valorem property taxes to Newton County and the city of Covington, and I think you deserve a better value than that," she told Young and pilot Lance Flynn, who attended the council's Monday meeting.
In September, the City Council considered terminating its contract with the FBO after its insurance lapsed for the second time in a year.
In December, aviators raised objections to new ground lease rates, terms of lease and rules and regulations implemented as part of lease agreements.
Also, Horton reported Monday that the FBO has still not paid past due stormwater utility fees. Riddell has stated that he is working with the city on a payment plan, but Horton said he had no knowledge of those discussions.
In related news, local legislation forming an airport authority that will govern the airport has passed both the state Senate and House and is awaiting the governor's signature.