No two days are the same in the aviation industry. But, working life has been about as far from business as usual as possible for Sandro Rebouças, Air BP site manager at Galeão Airport, Rio de Janeiro, during the Olympic and Paralympic Games
The Games of the XXXI Olympiad - or Rio 2016 - saw more than a million visitors descend on Brazil’s second largest city. And with the Paralympic Games coming less than three weeks’ later, the region’s airports have seen an unprecedented spike in traffic. In fact, Rio de Janeiro Galeão International Airport announced the largest passenger movement in its history the day after the Olympics closing ceremony. About 40,000 passengers pass through the airport on a normal day. That number more than doubled to 85,000 on 22 August. More passengers meant more planes - and the arrival and departure of thousands of competitors, officials and spectators, in turn, saw Air BP distributing an additional 1.5 million litres of aviation fuel over a 22-day business cycle.
While these were exceptional times, the priorities for Air BP site manager Sandro Rebouças and his team, remain constant: to safely manage the needs of their general and commercial aviation customers - including some of the world’s largest passenger airlines. Working together with the airport authorities and those customers during an extremely busy period resulted in considerably longer hours on site. But then, with superstar athletes wandering around the airport’s terminals, there were some moments to remember. “Once I found myself having a coffee in the same place as a medal-winning men’s basketball team,” Rebouças says. “That was a great opportunity for autographs. “Another thing that really surprised me was the number of private jets parked in the general aviation area. One day, I counted no fewer than 43.”
It’s not the first time that the airport has seen such an increase in traffic in a short period. Rio hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Air BP team at Galeão repeated a successful initiative used during the tournament to guarantee convenient and efficient flight turnarounds. Once again, they offered a fast-track fuel service for general aviation traffic. While the airport might have only three hours’ notice of an aircraft’s arrival, BP’s refuellers could be in attendance within 20 minutes of landing. Those flight crews who could plan further ahead had the option to book a pre-determined fuelling time to suit pilots’ flight schedules.
With traffic ramping up again before, during and after the Paralympic Games, Rebouças says: “Overall, the events create a fantastic atmosphere at the airport - really exciting, with locals keen to show our country’s potential and change the perceptions shaped by our national economic situation. “The spirit of teamwork among our 15 employees has been amazing too, with everyone focused on providing a first-class service for customers. We’re delighted with the volume increase for Air BP, of course. But it’s also a terrific opportunity to meet and work with completely different airlines and cultures.”
Day in the life…
First-class service is the objective of any day for Rebouças, Olympic and Paralympic Games or not. He’s an early riser - up at 5.50am, a quick shower, then off for a 30-40-minute drive into work, depending on traffic. Breakfast is taken with colleagues to catch up on the day’s activities, leaving his 18-year-old daughter to see her younger sister safely to school. “For efficiency’s sake I try to plan my day in advance as much as possible,” he explains. “I need to meet regularly with Air BP staff, customers and the airport authorities, as well as make checks on fuel storage and operational routines such as refresher training (in my capacity as a training authority for Air BP Brazil) and preventive maintenance on our equipment.
“We transfer fuel from Galeão to other airports as well, so we make daily checks of, what we call in the industry, ‘bridger loadings’ - that’s when we move aviation fuel from a delivery vehicle into storage. And it’s my job to supervise apron operations with the various commercial and general aviation operators. Needless to say, my tasks would be virtually impossible if I didn’t have my laptop and mobile phone close to hand at all times.” Rebouças, who holds a Master’s degree in business administration and worked in sales & logistics for a local LPG company before joining Air BP five years ago, says the Olympic experience will have long-term benefits for him and his team. “Everything that we have done in terms of preparation, planning and execution will help us become even more efficient in future,” he says.
“In particular, it will help in the way we approach the general aviation business. Rio de Janeiro International Airport is mostly focused on commercial aviation, but we are now exploring new opportunities in the general segment, and looking at how we can use the Air BP Sterling [fuel] Card to increase our business there.” After a busy schedule at the airport, Sandro’s typical day ends in much the same way every night. “I get home around 6pm and usually stay with the girls, watching a movie or going out for dinner at the mall near my house. At least once a week I’ll also play soccer with my colleagues.” He denies that they harbour any ambition of making the Brazil Olympic team for Tokyo 2020. They do, however, expect to be fuelling the aeroplane that will carry 2016’s gold medallists to Japan to defend their title.
What’s the difference?
General aviation traffic: this sector includes business jet and helicopter operators, as well as private pilots
Commercial traffic: aircraft operators that transport cargo and passengers