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Nantucket Airport Runs Low on Jet Fuel, Suspends Sales

GLaDOS / Wikipedia
CC BY-SA 4.0
A JetBlue Embraer ERJ 190-100 parked on the tarmac at Nantucket Regional Airport (KACK) in 2017.

A significant increase in air traffic and the nationwide worker shortage forced Nantucket Memorial Airport to suspend Jet-A fuel sales over the weekend.

Fuel has since arrived on the island and sales were back on Monday, but there could be implications down the line for the small airport.

Fuel usage is up 60 percent this year compared to 2019, as commercial flights have increased more than 30 percent on the island, and up to 40 percent for private jets.

Assistant airport manager Noah Karberg says they've also been impacted by a low number of fuel truck drivers during the pandemic, and there has been difficulty booking space on the Steamship Authority to bring fuel to the island.

All three combined created a difficult situation for the remote airport.

"On the commercial side, we were largely informed of what to expect and could plan accordingly," Karberg says. "But on the private side, in the corporate jet market, it's been an incredible, unprecedented demand and it's been difficult to predict."

Karberg says the fuel shortage may have caused travel delays, but there were no cancelations or strandings over the weekend.

Smaller airlines like Cape Air have a smaller engine and use a different type of fuel, and were not impacted by the weekend's fuel suspension.

Kargberg says that Nantucket has become a more popular place to travel this year with travel oversees becoming less popular because of the pandemic. Nantucket has become an alternate destination, especially among a class of travelers that use private jets.

Martha's Vineyard has seen an increase in airplane traffic, also with private jets. Officials say the increase in private jets is likely because more high end homes were sold on the Vineyard, above asking price.

On Nantucket, the Memorial Airport has used over 1 million gallons of Jet-A fuel so far this year.

The Airport holds 100,000 gallons of Jet-A fuel at a time, and is typically kept near capacity. But this summer, the airport has only been able to gather a limited supply of fuel on a given day, sometimes just enough to meet the day's demand.

"It's like living pay-check to pay-check," airport manager Tom Rafter was quoted in a press release issued by the airport on Monday. They stop selling fuel when their tank nears 5,000 gallons so they have reserves for medical and other emergency flights.

The airport was able to secure fuel to resume sales on Monday, but commercial and private jet companies may take note and start to secure their own fuel before traveling to Nantucket.

The Airport makes a significant amount of its money through fuel sales, so Karberg says the weekend's fuel shortage could hurt their bottom line later.