The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Rodger Nichols

grant Airport plans stuck on fuel

options Grant doesn’t cover all costs for desired


August 14, 2019

The Airport Committee of the Goldendale City Council met Monday night at City Hall. The intent was to present a proposal to the full City Council at its meeting next week on how best to use the $550,000 grant the city has received for improvements at the local airport. While that was welcome, it was far short of the $1.6 million the city had asked for in order to make all the improvements needed at the airport, which would include lengthening the runway by 1,500 feet to 5,000 feet, which would allow small jets to land. Consensus of the committee and the dozen pilots who attended was that having fuel available at the airport was a top priority. What kind of fuel, and how large the tanks should be, was the subject of much of the evening.

There are three major kinds of fuel used by aircraft: jet fuel is mostly kerosene. It is lighter than gasoline and has a higher flashpoint. The most commonly used is “Jet A.” One major advantage is its resistance to freezing because it is exposed to very low temperatures at high altitude. Jet A is also used by helicopters, and one big advantage of having it at the city’s airport is for firefighting and Life Flight. Currently Life Flight is based out of the Columbia Gorge Regional Airport in Dallesport because of available fuel. Potentially having a Life Flight outpost in Goldendale could be the difference when lives are at stake and minutes count. It would also allow firefighting aircraft to get closer to any fires in the area.

The other two kinds are “avgas,” which is 100 octane and low lead used by commercially built small aircraft, and “mo gas,” which is slang for “motor gasoline” that powers cars. It is increasingly used by experimental aircraft, which often run on automotive or lawnmower engines.

The committee heard two very different cost estimates. Consultant Corley McFarland of Precision Approach Engineering in Corvallis said a full fuel buildout would cost an estimated $750,000. But local businessmen and pilot Ty Ross said he had found a company that would install a card lock system for $305,000. That did not include the costs of a concrete pad for the tanks and pumps to sit on and asphalt paving from the runway to the pumps so that planes could taxi to them.

Local advocate Terry Luth also suggested that the city could use fuel trucks rather than above-ground tanks to store and dispense fuels. He noted the city had recently received a surplus truck from the military for free and converted it at relatively little cost to a tanker for the fire department. Both figures quoted above would include just tanks for Jet A and avgas, though there is growing interest in local pilots for mo gas as well, and Luth argued that if using fuel trucks would be feasible, it would be possible to have all three.

Ultimately, the committee decided to have Ross and McFarland to look over full documents on the company’s proposal to see if it would work. City Administrator Larry Bellamy summed it:

“We actually kind of punted,” he said, regarding the original intent to have a proposal ready for next week’s council meeting. “We’re going to get back together and refine the cost system numbers and see if that company can help us out and get more information on fuel tank costs and do the military surplus process. So what I’m hearing, they want more information and we’ll meet again in another month.”


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