Aspike in demand for avia- tion fuel has prompted Grand Central Airport, in Midrand, Gauteng, to increase its total fuel storage capacity to 140 000 ℓ.
The privately owned and managed airport recently upgraded its aviation gas (avgas) storage facility to a capacity of 74 000 ℓ, up from the previous 51 000 ℓ.
Avgas is used by piston- engine aircraft. Now an unexpected spike in demand for jet fuel, which is used by aircraft with turbine engines, has forced the airport to also consider upgrading its existing jet fuel storage facility.
“We have experienced an unexpected and significant rise in demand for jet fuel, requiring us to also expand the jet fuel storage facility. We are now designing an upgraded facility,” Grand Central Airport manager Gary Renault tells Engineering News.
He reports that the airport is aiming to increase its jet fuel storage capacity from 30 000 ℓ to 70 000 ℓ.
Renault says that the reasons for the sudden spike in demand for jet fuel are unclear but believes that one possibility may be the increased business that charter flight operators are experiencing.
The airport currently handles about 12 000 takeoffs and landings in a month, a sharp increase from the average of about 9 000 takeoffs and landings a month in 2010.
Meanwhile, the Gautrain rapid rail link is expected to open its Midrand station to the public by the end of June, opening up a new public transport route to customers passing through Grand Central Airport. Airport management is hopeful that the station will increase the attractiveness of the airport as a convenient and central destination for private flyers close to major business districts.
“However, it is too far for customers to walk to the Gautrain station. Therefore, we are currently engaging a local car rental company to explore the possibility of having two people carriers operating continuously dur- ing the day to transport air- port staff and customers between the two points,” Renault says.
The airport will try to provide this service free of charge.
Meanwhile, Renault reports that developing the airport to its full potential is like walking a tightrope between the goal of expansion and not negatively affecting any of the other businesses operating at the airport.
“Grand Central is a private airport, known for convenience. It takes about five minutes from touchdown to getting into a car and moving on to the next destination.
“If the airport was to con- sider opening up to commercial operators, we would have to change the current operating structure to cater for more-stringent regulations from the aviation regulator becoming applicable,” he explains.
However, this does not preclude the airport from ever considering accommodat- ing commercial operators. Renault says that the airport is open to new ideas and will consider entering into discussions with interested operators to explore mutually beneficial relationships.
He adds that, although the aerodrome would want to extend its runway and develop its infrastructure further, it faces severe space constraints, hampering the large-scale development of the airport’s facilities and services.
On the airport’s southern boundary, the location of Dale road prevents any possible expansion, while a cluster of tall buildings precludes developments in a northerly direction. Further, all the land surrounding the airport has already been acquired by a property developer intending to develop it within the next ten years.
However, some expansion is taking place, with the airport planning to construct 12 more hard space stands for fixed wing aircraft parking within the next two months, and about ten more helipad spaces. This expansion will result in the airport’s development reaching capacity, Renault says.
There currently are 19 hangars, mostly occupied by aviation businesses. The airport uses two of the hangars as ‘communal’ hangars for private aircraft being stored at the airport on a lease basis.
The airport’s apron is also small, making it difficult to accommodate larger aircraft. “As much as we would like to accommodate larger aircraft, space constraints are a huge challenge. Our aircraft parking space is currently full,” he notes.
Further, the airport reports that its business class lounge, which opened ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, con- tinues to see regular use by charter flight operators. It is a relaxing area, where passengers can wait while aircraft are being loaded and refuelled.
“We have a number of large companies as clients, and the lounge affords the often very important persons that pass through the airport the opportunity to wait for their flights in privacy,” Renault concludes.