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Fuel pipeline closure causes delays at Mitchell International

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MILWAUKEE -- Airlines at Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport could see more delays over the next few weeks, or possibly, months. Monday, multiple flights could not take off because they couldn't fill up with fuel.

The airport's main fuel pipeline is shut down after jet fuel leaked into a creek near the airport, and trucks are hauling in the daily fuel supply for each airline. It's a method easily disrupted by mechanical issues and traffic.

Hundreds of AirTran passengers were stuck Monday waiting for their planes to be fueled. Four flights were delayed roughly 25 minutes, but that number could grow as long as the pipeline remains shut down. It takes several tanker trucks of fuel per day to keep things running smoothly. How many trucks are needed is another variable. "Each airline contracts their own fuel, so it's a matter of looking at how much they need for a day, and how much they're flying in on aircraft already. It fluctuates as to how many there are each day," Mitchell International Airport spokesman Ryan McAdams said.

Part of the closed fuel pipeline was excavated by Shell. Shell spokesman Bill Tanner says the fuel company is looking into several methods to continue examining the pipeline, while avoiding airport interruptions, but further delays could occur. "There's always a million different ways that flights can get delayed, so you always want to check with (the airline) and make sure, before you head to the airport," McAdams said.

The fuel pipeline has been shut off for a little less than a week, and Monday's four delayed flights were the first as a result of the shutdown. There are still no estimates as to when the fuel pipeline will reopen.