Small Tampa Bay area airports work to prevent fueling mistakes

8 On Your Side

TAMPA (WFLA) – Dr. Daniel Greenwald, a Tampa Bay area surgeon, was killed after the wrong fuel was put in his plane, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The accident happened on Oct. 5, in Kokomo, Indiana.

8 On Your Side continues to investigate what led up to the crash that killed the doctor. Now, our team is focusing on the local fuel technicians who make life or death decisions in Florida.

We have nearly two dozen small or General Aviation airports in the Bay area.

The FAA doesn’t oversee the training or supervision of the maintenance technicians at these airports. The facilities are responsible for training and supervising their own employees.

Mark Pierce is an aviation attorney and flight instructor based out of Austin, Texas.

Pierce says fueling mix-ups are usually the result of a lack of training.

“You can be… cooking hamburgers one week and be out pumping fuel the next week,” he said.

Pierce has worked on tragic cases similar to Dr. Greenwald’s accident.

“It’s an ongoing problem that many of us thought was fixed back in the 1980s,” he said.

On August 27, 2014, four people were killed when a medical aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from Las Cruces Airport in New Mexico.

Pierce filed a lawsuit on behalf of one of the victims, a cancer patient named Frederick Green.

Pierce says the 2014 accident also involved the introduction of Jet A fuel into a twin-engine airplane that only ran on aviation gasoline.

“There’s … piecemeal fixes like the duckbill nozzle that supposed to prevent jet fuel from getting into a piston engine,” he said.

“We now know that untrained people can break through all of those barriers and crash airplanes.”

On Tuesday, 8 On Your Side started to call the smaller Bay area airports.

Some, like South Lakeland Airport, say they have no fuel on site.

At other facilities, like Avon Park Executive Airport, Pilot Country Airport or Lake Wales Municipal Airport pilots can fuel their own planes.

Meantime, airports that train technicians like Bartow Executive Airport or Winter Haven Regional Airport tell 8 On Your Side new workers receive hands-on training. They don’t work alone until they’ve proven they’re proficient.

Here’s the full statement from Tommy Martin, Airside Operations Manager at Bartow Executive Airport:

“We have Airside Operations Technicians who do the fueling for Bartow Flying Service. A new technician is paired with a senior technician for one on one, hands-on training and is required to complete the NATA(National Air Transportation Association) Safety 1st, PLST (Professional Line Service Training) program. We also adhere to the standards set in ATA 103 (Standards for Jet Fuel Quality Control at Airports) and NFPA 407 (Standard for Aircraft Fuel Servicing). A technician is not allowed to work alone until certification is achieved and proficiency is demonstrated to supervisory staff.”

Here’s the full statement from Ashley Udick, Airport General Manager, at Winter Haven Regional Airport:

“The Winter Haven Regional Airport does not have an independently owned and operated Fixed Base Operator (FBO) on the airport, the fuel is managed and sold by the City of Winter Haven. We do offer self-service Jet-A, Avgas, and Mogas as well as full service Jet-A and Avgas. All fuel is monitored through a quality control program, including daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual checks. Our Line Service Technicians, once hired, are put through NATA’s Safety 1st Professional Line Service Training (PLST) which is provided to us by our fuel provider, Phillips 66. The training is typically done online first with accompanied hands on modules. There is also a Lead Technician that must complete the Supervisory training in order to sign off on all PLST online and hands on training. Both types of training are bi-annual. This is the same training most private FBOs utilize.”

The NTSB is still investigating Dr. Greenwald’s case.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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