Mechanical delays have hosed the Prince George Airport at the pump.
Plans for YXS to open its giant new refueling facility - the last major hurdle between this city and the trans-Pacific air traffic industry - have been held up due to technical difficulties.
"The tanks are there but the pumping equipment isn't," said airport CEO John Gibson. "We had it come, it arrived, but it was damaged in transportation so we couldn't accept it and had to send it back."
There were hopes that the repairs could be complete and the pumping equipment installed early in the new year but the airport's manager of marketing and communications Lindsay Cotter said the issue will go deeper into 2013 than first thought.
"The fuel pump is still in Edmonton getting fixed," she said. "We expect it to arrive at YXS in the first quarter. It will then be hooked up and tested and we expect to be filling aircraft in the second quarter."
The first step in making Prince George attractive for air cargo business was extending the runway to allow for virtually any kind of cargo, passenger or military aircraft to easily land and take off. With industry booming around the north, major activities underway with the port facilities in Prince Rupert and rail demand for CN, that runway became a key piece of the provincial economic plan.
The long runway and other capacity-building upgrades were hamstrung by the inability of the airport to fill those various aircraft with fuel. A new refueling apron was part of the expansion plans all along, dating back to the mid-2000s, so having the project this close to completion is gratifying for YXS officials.
"We've got just over 100,000 litres of storage in the current system and we have put 600,000 litres of tank capacity in, we just need the fuel pumping system," Gibson said. "There is not a whole lot of reserve fuel here. If even one big aircraft came without notice we would possibly not have enough fuel."
The new system would also streamline the fueling commerce done at the airport. Currently, airline operators and private pilots can buy fuel either from Shell or Imperial Oil, at the prices the local agents for these companies can arrange.
With the expanded amounts coming and going in the new system, a fuel broker (Allied Aviation already has the contract) can acquire better deals, it can all be blended into the tanks regardless of the source companies involved, and the vending accounted for independently. It means better prices for the customer and more flexibility for the merchants, Gibson said.
Once all components of the YXS expansion are in place it is believed that Prince George's airport will be well positioned to host so-called "tech stops" on the North America-Asia flight path.