Warren County Memorial Airport now has self-serve gas pumps to meet traveler demands, an upgrade that cost $753,000.
“We’re very happy with the system,” said Dr. Mike Roberts, interim airport manager. “It is a 24/7 credit-card, self-service system, so it should allow us to significantly increase our aviation fuel sales as well as provide better service to our customers.”
The old system had to be manned and was not available after business hours. While jet fuel cannot be used in automobiles, Roberts compares the new pumps to that at Kroger to demonstrate how easy it is to use.
“As a pilot, I have used this kind of system. They are all over the country. It is just like the gas pumps at Kroger. A pilot pulls up to it, swipes a credit card and that’s it. They can come in afterhours and fuel their plane using a credit card. The system we had before did not allow that. If no one was here, you couldn’t fuel up. We’re already seeing an increase in fuel sales.”
The upgrade came after Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division instructed the rural airport to replace its aging fuel tanks.
“Our fuel tanks were over 25 years old,” said Roberts. “TDOT Aeronautics told us they were timed out. We have them monitored for fuel leaks. We’ve never had any indication of a leaking tank, which proved to be true. When EPA did its testing after the tanks were pulled, there were no leaks.”
The Aeronautics Division supports public-use airports throughout the state.
“They wanted us to put in new tanks and they were willing to pay for it,” said Roberts. “The money that comes from state and federal is from an aviation fuel tax, a trust fund. Every gallon of fuel itself is taxed. What we pay in doesn’t really amount to a whole lot, but what Fed-Ex pays in and Delta Airlines pays in and American Airlines pays in does add up a lot.”
Taxes collected go into a trust fund that’s given to airports for improvements.
“Bigger airports get the lions share, of course, but we get a portion too,” said Roberts. “This airport gets allocated $150,000 a year out of that aviation trust fund. We don’t pay that much in tax because we don’t sell that much in fuel, but we do get the benefit of that. We are allowed to accumulate $600,000 in that fund which is what we did to put toward the new refueling system.”
The division also provides grants that require 5 percent matches. Per an agreement with Warren County government, any grants received are paid using taxpayer dollars.
The Warren County Commission recently approved a $1,250 allocation to cover a 5 percent match of a $25,000 grant for the fuel tank replacement.