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Archive for Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Business climbing for Salina aviation

June 15, 2010

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— Sales of fuel for airplanes may be only half of what they were eight years ago, but officials at two Salina aviation companies say increases over the past five months give them reason to believe the U.S. economy is turning around.

The past two years have been dismal for America Jet and Flower Aviation, two companies that serve Salina Municipal Airport. But the Salina Journal reports the economic climate may be changing for the companies, which refuel airplanes and offer food and ground services to people who are flying.

America Jet also services and maintains aircraft, provides storage, offers flight lessons and rents airplanes.

“I’ve never felt like we were in danger of closing, but cash flow got tough for awhile,” said Greg Lust, president of America Jet, which he co-owns with his wife, Tammie.

“Over the last winter, December and January, we were down about 45 percent in fuel sales,” he said. “Since then, it’s picked up considerably.”

Enough so that the company is having a grand reopening Saturday to show off its remodeled building, which it rents from the Salina Airport Authority.

Lust said lower fuel prices and a rebound in the automobile industry has boosted cargo plane traffic.

Flower Aviation of Salina has lost more than half its business during the economic downturn, general manager Doug Livergood said. But in May, business was up 25 percent over the same month a year ago.

“This year I’m having more really good days,” Livergood said. “During all of last year, I hardly had any.”

Airport authority records show that in 2002, nearly 4.7 million gallons of fuel was dispensed at the airport. In 2009, that was down to 2.48 million gallons.

The airport authority assesses a fee of 6.89 cents per gallon of fuel delivered at the airport. Last year, that fee brought in $110,000 less than it did in 2002.

“It’s been rough for about two years, but we’d been preparing for this for a while,” Livergood said. “If a business isn’t flexible during a recession, they’re probably not going to last.”

Lust said higher fuel efficiency means companies such as his have to find additional ways to make money. He said there seems to more interest by people in learning to fly, and he’s hoping more people will store their airplanes at the airport.

“I don’t know that we’ll ever get back to where we were,” Lust said. “The increased fuel efficiency of aircraft is allowing some to go nonstop from coast to coast. Consequently, we’re looking for other opportunities to increase our revenue. Growing our shop is one possibility.”

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