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"Testing shows Truckee airport fuel in Aug. 2 fatal plane crash met international regulations"

Friday, August 24, 2012

Testing shows Truckee airport fuel in Aug. 2 fatal plane crash met
international regulations
By Margaret Moran
The Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. - Additional laboratory testing on fuel sold to Truckee
Tahoe Airport prior to a fatal single-engine plane crash earlier this month
found it to be in compliance with international regulations, officials said

World Fuels, Truckee Tahoe Airport's Chevron distributor, recently had
samples of its July 20 fuel shipment to the airport tested by Inspectorate,
an independent laboratory in Torrance, Calif., after previous surveys by a
separate company indicated the fuel had substandard octane levels.

The tests were made following the Aug. 2 plane crash at the airport that
killed 66-year-old James R. Ungar of Yreka, Calif., the cause of which is
still unknown. The Federal Aviation Administration and National
Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident, said Ian Gregor,
a spokesperson for the FAA, in a previous story.

Shortly after the accident, Truckee Tahoe Airport contacted World Fuels for
a lab recommendation on where to have the July 20 fuel shipment tested,
which was sold at the airport between July 20 and Aug. 2, and was referred
to Saybolt Lp, in Martinez, Calif.

"Fuel sampling and testing after aircraft incidents is standard airport
operating procedure," according to press release by the Truckee Tahoe
Airport District.

Initial tests of the 100 Low Lead fuel on Aug. 5 indicated a "slight
discrepancy" in its octane content, according to the airport. Octane content
needs to be at a 99.7 rating in order to meet international regulations for
aviation gasoline - results of a small sample of the July 20 delivery showed
the content to be at a 97 octane rating.

Due to the discrepancy, World Fuels replaced the airport's fuel on Aug. 6
and Aug. 7.

"They (World Fuels) were still maintaining that they didn't feel anything
was wrong with the fuel," said Kevin Smith, general manager of Truckee Tahoe
Airport, at Thursday's airport district board of directors meeting in

World Fuels is federally regulated, so before it ships any fuel, the company
tests it to ensure it's in compliance with international specifications and
attaches a certificate of analysis stating as such.

"They swapped it out to get us going, and also they wanted to run their own
tests," Smith said.

While Truckee Tahoe Airport waited for World Fuels to get its own tests
results from Inspectorate, the airport decided to contact its customers.

"The airport had an obligation to inform our customers that the fuel
purchased between July 20 and Aug. 2 could have potential octane
discrepancy," Smith said. "Potential, because World Fuels was saying we need
to do additional testing."

Approximately 130 customers had the fuel in their airplanes, Smith said,
including Ungar's Piper Comanche 250. The airport began to notify customers
early Aug. 8, after Saybolt re-tested its fuel sample, confirming its Aug. 5

"You did a good job," Jim Morrison, an airport board member, told Smith and
other airport staff, a sentiment echoed by other board members.

But one meeting attendee disagreed.

"My concern, to be honest with you, is my plane was fueled with that, and my
wife's plane, and we weren't contacted on Wednesday (Aug. 8) or on Thursday
(Aug. 9)," said Rob Lober, of Crystal Bay. "Only until I called the airport
on Thursday and was told, 'Oh, yeah, you're on the list, we're getting to
you.' I think there was a lack of urgency on this, so, sorry, I don't go for
the kudos on job well done."

After the meeting, Smith discussed the issue in an interview.

"There's a lot of people that said we didn't call them, but that's because
they had heard - we did e-blasts and got word out," he said. "The idea is
that you get word out so people will know and then we'll either call them or
they'll call us. So, yeah, we didn't call him, but we didn't call him
because he called us and we told him the information."

Smith said airport staff learned many lessons from this experience, among
which: how to best notify customers in the event of a fuel quality control
or safety issue. 

As for how initial tests by Saybolt showed a discrepancy with the fuel's
octane rating, Smith said it could have been caused by several factors, such
as how the samples were stored and the lab's testing protocols. 

"We're confident in our fuel here now and we're confident in the quality
control in the airport," Smith said.

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