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Mon, Feb 28, 2005

Flying To Naples? Fuel Up First

Florida Airport Forced To Ration Fuel Because Of Shortage

It's the busiest time of the year for airports in Southwest Florida. Thousands of snowbirds go there to escape the wintery weather every year. So you can imagine the angst in Naples, when pilots discovered the airport would start rationing fuel.

Naples Municipal Airport last week issued it's own NOTAM, telling pilots it had run out of Jet-A. Now, the airport storage tanks weren't completely dry -- authorities always keep a reserve for emergency response aircraft. But as far as general aviation and commercial pilots were concerned, the pumps were closed.

Doug Van Dyken, who works at Coporate Flight, Inc., said he never expected the airport to stop selling fuel. "I was totally shocked when I got there and couldn't get gas," he said in an interview with the Naples Daily News. "One airplane (pilot) begged and pleaded that he had to leave. They came over and sold them 75 gallons to get to where he was going on the other side of the state."

The fuel situation at Naples Municipal is already a sore subject for pilots, who said the city shouldn't be in the aircraft fueling business at all. "They (the businesses) could charge whatever they want to. Let them compete as capitalists in a head-to-head approach."

Less than 40 miles away, at Southwest Florida International Airport, FBO executives couldn't understand the Naples fuel shortage.

"We had no problem getting fuel (on Monday)," Vincent Wolanin, chairman of PrivateSky Aviation, told the Daily News. "We're stocked (with fuel) and ready to go. We can take all airplanes Naples wants to send here, and we'll fuel them up."

What's going on in Naples? Gail Cureton, who speaks for the Naples Airport Authority, said the field was shorted on a fuel delivery. She said for two days last week, the fuel company sent only two trucks a day -- not the five trucks normally sent. "We basically were not given the amount of fuel that we ordered," she told the Daily News.

The shortage at Naples Municipal is even more noticable when you consider the case of Jet 1 Center. As ANN has reported, that company is locked in a legal fight with the airport authority after a local judge ordered Jet 1 to stop selling fuel in December 2003. General Manager Jeff Ellston told the Daily News, when his company fueled aircraft, there was always enough fuel to go around.



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