By Dave Hodges
Pilot Joseph Owens has switched filling stations for his Cessna, and officials at Tallahassee Regional Airport hope many others do, too.
They gathered Tuesday at the airport with various project team members to mark the opening of the general aviation fueling facility, which saves private pilots $1.15 per gallon when they refuel.
Owens said he had been buying his av-gas anywhere but Tallahassee. “This Sunday I filled up at the new self-service pump,” he said.
The per-gallon price for fuel varies widely from one airport to the next, compelling pilots to shop around.
More service and better facilities for general aviation is a priority at TLH, but it was fuel costs that got the conversation started, said Sunil Harman, director of aviation.
“One of the first things I heard when I came here is our fuel prices were not competitive,” Harman told those gathered. He approached Million Air, the airport’s fixed-base operator, about finding a solution and the two worked together on the project.
General aviation, often overshadowed by the operations of the major airlines, constitutes a sizable amount of activity, from air charters, transport business and military aircraft operations to weekend pilots, many of whom will fly in for FSU’s football game Saturday against the University of Florida.
“It is my hope that this is the day things turn around at this airport,” Harman said. Because of the recession, that aviation segment has been in a decline, down 20 percent over the past five years.
“We are going to do a lot more things with this airport in the future,” said Mayor John Marks. “Aviation, obviously, is a very vital part of our economy.”
The ceremony also marked the opening of the airport’s newly extended north-south runway, which was expanded from 6,070 to 7,000 feet. The project, the first phase of a $43 million effort to upgrade both of TLH’s runways, included rehabilitating critical spans of airfield pavement, better lighting and an improved instrument-landing system.