Aviation industry will deal with jet fuel shortages

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WASHINGTON -- Airports and airlines do have enough jet fuel to support continued full commercial operations, both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Air Transport Association (ATA) said Sept. 1.

The FAA and the ATA issued the statements after some individuals were quoted in the media suggesting shortages could force some airports to shut down.

There are jet fuel shortages, some of which have been exacerbated by the impact of Hurricane Katrina on Gulf Coast refineries and jet fuel pipelines.

But given that a number of major pipeline operators have now resumed operations, we believe the aviation industry will not face any immediate disruptions relating to the supply of jet fuel, the FAA said.

The ATA, for its part, also declared there is not an imminent threat of significant flight cancellations or airports being shut down.

Over the next several weeks fuel supply problems could become more critical if the supply line is not restored ATA president and CEO James May said. However, reports from both oil companies and pipelines indicate positive developments.

The ATA already was talking before the hurricane about jet fuel shortages at some airports, and it said the effects of Katrina reduced the production of jet fuel by 13%.

Airports with shortages include Charlotte, N.C.; Fort Myers and West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Washington (Dulles), the ATA said.

The ATA never said any airports were in danger of shutting down. But it did say keeping them stocked has been a major logistical challenge.

One way the airline industry has been doing it is by trucking fuel to the airports. Another is by a method called tankering. With tankering, airlines carry extra fuel in an aircraft when flying to the airport so they wont need to fill up as much for the subsequent flight.

One airline, for example, recently loaded its aircraft with 60,000 extra gallons for a flight from Denver. That can be costly to an airline, however, because a heavier plane burns more fuel. As a general rule, an aircraft burns about 200 additional pounds of fuel for every 1,000 pounds it carries above its optimal level, a pilot told TravelWeekly.com.

ATA chief economist John Heimlich said other potential methods for coping with the shortages include more fuel conservation -- although airlines have been doing plenty of that already to cope with rising fuel prices-and schedule reductions.

To contact reporter Andrew Compart, send e-mail to [email protected].

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