High fuel prices a puzzlement at airport
by Sam Matthews
Jan 10, 2014 | 2084 views | 1 1 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fuel price for 100 low lead aviation fuel is $6.57 a gallon at Tracy Municipal Airport, among the highest in the region. Customers are few and far between.  Sam Matthews Tracy Press
Fuel price for 100 low lead aviation fuel is $6.57 a gallon at Tracy Municipal Airport, among the highest in the region. Customers are few and far between. Sam Matthews Tracy Press
With all of the public interest generated in the past couple of months about the proposed Ellis residential development’s connections with Tracy Municipal Airport, local pilots have mentioned one vexing question about the airport to me.

And that question does not concern any charges of alleged illegalities in Surland’s payment of $50,000 in airport fuel sales fees owed to the city by Turlock Air Center, which has the fuel contract at the local airport. There is nothing illegal about the payments, an investigation by the city has concluded.

What the pilots want to know is this: Why is the cost of aviation fuel at Tracy Municipal Airport one of the highest in the area, causing many aircraft owners to fill up their planes’ tanks elsewhere?

As of Thursday, Jan. 9, the price of standard 100 low-lead aviation fuel — the kind used by propeller-driven private planes — at the local airport was $6.57 per gallon for self-serve. The only higher price nearby was $6.67 at Stockton Airport for full-service gasoline pumped by attendants.

Meanwhile, in Livermore, the self-serve price was $4.98, the same as in Oakdale. At Modesto, it was $5.20, and at Byron, $5.30.

If the local fuel provider is trying to attract business, why is the local price among the highest in the area?

Some pilots wonder if there is some reason for what they see as puzzling disincentives for pilots to buy fuel in Tracy.

Tracy is unique among cities of our size in having its own municipal airport. For decades, efforts to develop the airport with new services and facilities aimed at generating airport development have only been partially successful.

Offering high prices for fuel doesn’t seem the right way to propel that development, if you can pardon the pun.

Yesterday, I received a telephone voicemail response from Steve Stuhmer at Turlock Air Center. He requested I send any questions to him by email. And that I will do. Those answers will be in next week’s column.

I realize that this is an incomplete report on the fuel situation at the airport, and that’s why I have framed my puzzlement in questions. In the next weeks, I expect to receive answers to these questions, and no doubt there will be other questions and hopefully more answers as well.

• Sam Matthews Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.

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January 11, 2014
It is unfortunate that today's world separates illegal and ethical activity. Surlands's $50,000 payment may not be illegal, but I question it's ethics. What many people don't understand is how the FAA measures the vitality of an airport by the number of landings it receives daily. This determines the amount the FAA funds to the city. When the City of Tracy managed fuel concession, transient pilots landed in Tracy to buy "Cheap" gas. Pilots flying home to the Bay Area often stopped in Tracy to fill up and save $1.50 per gallon or more. The FBO in Tracy, Skyview Aviation, relies on these landings for business. I am sure more fuel was sold and city tax revenue was higher than the current prices offered by TAC. Surland Homes biggest obstacle to build their development seems to be FAA laws that prohibit building near an active airport for public safety. It has to be questioned ethically why Surland would pay $50,000 to TAC. Could it be in hopes that TAC keeps fuel prices up, Tracy Airport will continue to have reduced landings and reduce its vitality in the eyes of the FAA? Further investigation should be done. Why would Surland Fund it's biggest obstacle?

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