Saturday, September 19, 2009

Advance Planning

The client wants us to work out of a little town in southern Alberta for a day, and calls me to check and see if the airport will be sufficient. I promise to check it out and call him back.

It has two runways, a short turf one and a longer paved one, very common here. If the long runway is suitable for you in no wind, but the crosswind is too great for you to land on the long runway, then the headwind on the cross runway is such that your touchdown speed and runway required are sufficiently reduced that the short turf runway should be fine. The long runway is long enough for us at gross weight at runway elevation and and summer temperatures, but not by much. I'm spoiled, really, with many of the runways I take off from being double what I need.

There is avgas available at the field, so I call the number listed in the CFS and ask if they can supply the quantity we need, and if fuel is available on a Saturday and outside normal business hours. He's quick to assure me that yes, that will be no problem, just call the number I called and someone will be there quickly. I confirm again the quantity and that we can take a load of fuel at 7 am, one in the early afternoon and another at ten or eleven p.m. I call back the client and tell him that the aerodrome is adequate, and I pass on the contact number so he can arrange payment for the fuel.

The next day I hear that we're going to a different small town in Alberta. I ask what happened to the first one. "There was no fuel," one of the client's employees tells me. What? It turns out that between me asking and the client calling to arrange it, the guy actually dipped the tanks and found he had only 300L in his tank. They've found another airport that can supply the fuel and have made arrangements themselves. I'm glad we found out that there was virtually no fuel at the first place before turning up and starting work, but I'm pretty ticked that he didn't at least tell me he wasn't sure, or he had to dip the tanks and call me back. I hope the client didn't think I hadn't checked.


SwL_Wildcat said...

Another problem with those small airports that only sell a few hundred gallons a year is the moisture that accumulates in the tanks. Your better off buying fuel from a place that sells more volume as odds are better you will get fresher fuel with less contamination.

Dave Starr said...

Likely the same guy will go home at night, snap at his wife, kick the dog and sit and nurse his beer, complaining about life in the global economic crisis ... poor me, I never get any breaks except bad ones.

Had to laugh a little at this happening in Canada ... it's more the sort of story you would get here in the Philippines.

Regarding Wildcat's comments ... more than 50 years ago at a very small country airport one of my 'junior line assistant' jobs was to 'stick' the tanks each and every am to a', inform the boss if our quantity was down to the 're-order' point and b., always use a dab of special water finder paste on the end of the dip stick and immediately pull the main switch on the pumps if any water was found.

As I recall our gas supplier wouldn't even deliver a load unless we showed the daily water test log book ... hate to think we've gone backward after all those years.

Here in the Philippines we typically use five gallon cans filled from drums and ever drop is poured through a chamois filtered funnel ... another common bush pilot practice which I guess has gone by the wayside.

SwL_Wildcat said...

I agree with you Dave, they should be checked daily. I have flown into small airports (CAV4 comes to mind) where everything is self serve, and not a sole around for miles. You pull up to the pumps; enter a frequency code to get in the door of the pilot shack/breaker room/payment office. Enter another frequency to open the safe and get out the credit card machine. Do up your sales slip, put the machine and credit card slip back in the safe and lock everything up. There was the previous guy’s credit card slip in the safe from 3 weeks before. I sign the guest book... Hummm last person to sign in was 3 weeks ago in a 172, 2 weeks before that was a PA-28. I look through the book and there might have been 14 – 16 aircraft in the last year, plus locals who don't sign. What is that, maybe three thousand liters a year? You know the guy/gal/owner is not coming out on a daily basis to pick up credit card slips, never mind checking the tanks. After we used the old credit card machine and left it was over 2 months until my credit card was charged for the purchase. My personal pucker factor for fueling up at these places is higher considering they are quite often small strips close to bigger mountains. Maybe it’s just me but I have this funny thing about doing forced approaches in mountain passes... Knock on wood I have not had a problem yet, but if there WAS a problem with the fuel it could go undetected for months, or until a TC after accident investigation.

nec Timide said...

The thing to look for in small, self service airports especially, is an in line fuel filter water separator. Best is to have also have a filter pressure drop gauge as well as this will give you an indication of how much contamination is in the filter/separator. Water isn't the only contaminant that will get you.

Frank Van Haste said...

Dear Trix:

{nitpick mode on}
Re: "Advance Planning"...what other kind is there?

Kinda like "past history", "true facts", etc. :-)
{nitpick mode off}

Be of good cheer,


Aviatrix said...

It's advance planning because I did the planning in advance of the customer doing the planning?

I think of it as advance planning when I'm doing it for a flight I don't know will happen yet, and planning when I'm doing it for a flight I know I'm going on.

I don't enter my PIN number at the ATM machine, if that's any help.

Dave Starr said...

@ the wildcat.

I hear you. Showing my age there, wasn't I? As well as bragging about a much better environment, I recon. (It's what we call the "ber" months here now, dry sunny days and reasonable temps.

@ Frank van Haste .. what other kind of planning is there? Obviously you have never been employed by the same government agencies I have, sometimes as a 'planner'. Many, many a plan has been written 'after the fact'. I know, I know, that rather beggars the definition of "planning", but Webster doesn't run the US government ;-)

Be of good cheer also, good sir, your comment gave me a smile.