Fighter jets find fuel in Lloyd

By Geoff Lee

September 22, 2016 12:00 AM

Into the wild blue yonder Llloydminster airport manager, Fred Ackerman, right, chats with an F18 crew member on the official refueling flight Friday to inaugurate the Border City as an official alternative airport to Edmonton for 4 Wing Cold Lake military planes.

Military pilots from Cold Lake are tipping their wings in approval of Lloydminster Airport as an alternative airport for F-18 jet landings and refuelling.
The local landing, refuelling and takeoff of an F-18 from Cold Lake last Friday inaugurated the airport as an alternative to Edmonton for military planes.
“We are officially now an alternative airport for 4 Wing Cold Lake,” said airport manager Fred Ackerman.
“What that means for them is, in the event of say, the weather or an incident where they could not get into Cold Lake, we are now an alternate airport for them to land at.
“They appreciate that fact because otherwise they would have to go to Edmonton and we’re just that much closer.”
Maj. Denis Bandet, from 4 Wing, said there’s been nothing that’s prevented planes from landing in Lloydminster for an emergency or other reason in the past since the runway is more than enough to land.
What’s new is the F-18 has now been certified to fly GPS approaches for landing.
“It’s always in our planning contingencies to have a back up plan,” said Bandet.
“Now that we have this new certification, Lloydminster has instrument approaches which service a lot of civilian traffic—we can now use those instrument landing aids for our purposes.”
He said Nav Canada is the governing body that lays out how the approaches are flown.
“We fly those approaches in accordance with those publications,” he said.
Bandet said in the event of inclement weather emergency pilots have to be able to land at a different airport other than their home base that can accommodate the F18s.
He said Lloydminster is really close.
“It’s only 60 miles so it really only takes about six or seven minutes to get there.”
In the past, pilots had to use Edmonton and Fort McMurray,  which are substantially further.
“We are quite fortunate to have Lloydminster so close,” said Bandet.
Having the opportunity to refuel military jets and helicopters fits into the city’s business as a retailer of aviation fuel at the airport.
“It’s certainly a revenue stream back into the city to try to recoup some of the costs of running an airport,” said Ackerman.
The airport’s fuelling system is set up to sell and pump JetA1 fuel to military planes along with Avgas 100 LL or low lead for other aircraft.
The city ditched its previous plan to buy a ghost fuel system approved by council last November at an estimated cost of $253,251 in favour of just purchasing the existing fuel tanks from Courtesy Air.
“In the long run, that ended up being the easier, more logical way to go,” said Ackerman.
“We just have tanks that are permanently mounted and we have a 150 ft hose to reach out, so we just pull them into the staging area and fuel them up that way.”
The fuel service provider is Border City Aviation with full service 24/7.
He noted year to date airport movements are down about 40 per cent due to the slump in the economy with military jet fuel sales to be sporadic.
“It’s going to be contingent if they have a good run and it’s always good weather and there’s never a reason to close the runway, we might not ever see them,” said Ackerman.
“The main thing is now, we are a standby alternative airport for them.”
Lloydminster’s runway is 5,780 ft. in length for safe landings of military jets loaded with fuel.
Ackerman said when the F-18 pilot took off Friday after refuelling “he rotated’ about half way down the runway for takeoff.
“An F-18 is made to land on an aircraft carrier,” he said.
Ackerman said the appearance of jets is new, but Griffon military helicopters have using the Lloydminster airport for years.
“When they are on exercise at CFB Wainwright they come over here lots and the helicopters have always been here,” he said.
The F-18 that landed and took off Friday at the Lloydminster airport did so quietly compared to a noisey low flying jet that lit up 911 switchboards in late May.
“When people were screaming that was when they did a low fly over the exhibition grounds for some kind of motorcycle daredevil event,“said Ackerman, referring to Nitro Circus.
He said most military jets do not fly over the city for that exact reason.
“They typically come in from the north for the noise control because they do respect that not everybody thinks it’s cool.”

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