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New Santa Monica Airport Fuel Provider to Take Over Sunday  

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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

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By Jorge Casuso

April 11, 2017 -- Santa Monica Airport (SMO) will have a new self-service fuel provider starting Easter Sunday after the unexpected departure of American Flyers, which has been a longtime fixture at the airport.

City officials said they do not anticipate a gap in service when American Flyers vacates the premises Saturday and Aeroplex/Aerolease Group takes over the management and operation of the self-service fuel business the following day.

"We weren't expecting American Flyers to leave," said Nelson Hernandez, senior advisor to the City Manager on SMO, adding that the City will continue to operate the century old airport consistent with the terms of a January settlement agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Under the agreement, the City will shut down the century old airport on December 31, 2028 (" Federal Judge Approves Santa Monica Airport Closure Deal," February 3, 2017).

Aeroplex officials said they are ready to step in.

“We recognize the urgent need to transition fuel operations seamlessly, so there is minimal interruption in service to the general aviation community,” said the company's president and CEO Curt Castagna.

“In the process, we are conducting a complete evaluation of the system to assure improvements that will make fueling operations run safely, smoothly and efficiently for aircraft owners and operators who rely on the service at SMO,”Castagna said.

American Flyers, which operates a flight school at the airport, was given an eviction notice in September, after the City Council voted to take over the aircraft-support services they provide ("Major Santa Monica Airport Tenant Issued Eviction Notice," September 16, 2016).

The company fought the eviction in federal court but abruptly announced last month they would vacate the premises Saturday ("City Ponders Future After Fuel Supplier Announces Exit from Santa Monica Airport," March 28, 2017).

“The last straw was the agreement between the city and the FAA, which was a surprise to many people in the aviation community,” American Flyers President Jill Cole told the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's (AOPA) publication last month.

American Flyers will relocate several aircraft to a base the company opened November 1 in Scottsdale, Arizona, where “they genuinely care about the general aviation community,” she told the publication.

She said the company would “do the best we can to support from afar” the transition in fuel operations at Santa Monica Airport.

The fueling lease with Aeroplex/Aerolease Group is on an interim basis until the City finds a permanent operator, Hernandez said.

The City's options include entering into a long-term agreement with the Long-Beach based company, finding another permanent provider or having the City take over, Hernandez said.

"We own the credit card machines, the pumps, the tanks, and we already operate self-fueling stations for the Big Blue Bus (BBB)," he said referring to the City's transit system. "So this would not be very difficult."

Under the agreements with both American Flyers and Aeroplex, the company will pay the city 11 cents per gallon sold, Hernandez said. A gallon of leaded fuel for propeller planes currently costs about $5.25 per gallon, he said.

The operator also pays a lease, which for American Flyers was $11,000 to $12,000 a month, Hernandez said.

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