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"Richmond airport OK's safety rules"

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Airport OK's safety rules
The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch

The Capital Region Airport Commission yesterday passed a tough set of safety
and training rules over the objections of private fuel truck operators at
Richmond International Airport. 

"We didn't get what we wanted, but at the same time, we recognize the
commission did hear and consider some of our comments," said Elaine Jordan,
a Richmond attorney representing one of the fuelers, Million Air.

The fuelers objected to new powers given the airport's president and chief
executive officer, who can now start a suspension process.

The biggest change for Million Air and the airport's other aviation services
provider, Aero Industries, allows the head of the airport to sus- pend
operating rights in the event of a serious accident. The 14-member
commission -- representing Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover --
was given final authority to ban an operator from the airport for up to a

The new rules and training regulations were drafted after two mishaps this
year involving Million Air trucks that struck commercial jets. No serious
injuries, fires or fuel leaks occurred, but the accidents sparked concern.

Commission Chairman Beverley W. "Booty" Armstrong struck a conciliatory note
before the unanimous vote amending the airport's rules and regulations.

Some at Million Air and Aero "are under the impression that the airport and
commission doesn't appreciate them as much as they should," Armstrong said.
"We have been most mindful and appreciative" of their services.

"But at the end of the day," he concluded, "safety was the major concern."

In a Dec. 8 letter to the airport administration, Million Air's attorney
said a suspension for any period of time "effectively shuts down its fueling
business, which is a substantial part of its revenues," and threatens the
company's financial viability.

Before voting, the commission struck a provision that made six moving
violations by a fuel truck operator grounds for suspension.

Commissioner John V. Mazza Jr. of Chesterfield proposed the change because
of the possibility that relatively minor infractions, such as missing
taillights, could become grounds for banning an operator.

"The rest of the rules are reasonable and fair," Mazza said.

Commissioner Daniel A. Gecker, also of Chesterfield, disagreed, saying that
scratching the infractions measure would remove one of the tools the
airport's administration could use to monitor a fueler's safety record.

Removing the measure actually makes the rules more punitive than preventive,
Gecker said.

Despite his opposition, Gecker joined the rest of the commission in its aye
vote. "We'll take another look in six months, and we'll make changes in
round two of this discussion," Gecker said.

Jordan was encouraged.

"Safety's always a concern," the Million Air lawyer said, "and we're always
looking at how we can improve it."

On the Web:
Fueling accidents rare, experts say

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