Refuelling is a vital part of any flight. Customers expect it to work seamlessly, timelessly and efficiently, but most of all safely. Just last month we were reminded of the catastrophic consequences of misfuelling a plane, when a Piper Aerostar crashed soon after take-off from Indiana’s Kokomo Municipal Airport.
Tragically the pilot was killed after pumping 163 gallons of Jet-A into the piston-engine aircraft, which should have been filled with Avgas. The NTSB report stated that the FBO worker radioed the pilot asking him if he wanted jet fuel before landing, then again before refuelling. On both occasions the pilot confirmed he wanted jet fuel. The truck was clearly marked Jet-A. Interestingly the operator had to rotate the Jet-A fuel nozzle relative to the aircraft’s fuel tank filler necks to be able to refuel the aircraft (an Avgas port is smaller than Jet-A). With better training it’s more likely he would have realised the poor fit meant the wrong fuel was being supplied.
For airport operators and ground handling teams, we understand that keeping people safe and mitigating any potential risks is a priority, whatever the time pressure involved during the turnaround process. While misfuelling remains the biggest safety risk, other risks include people working under an aircraft and being injured by moving vehicles. Equipment being damaged resulting in catastrophic spills is another hazard. And, in larger, busier commercial airports, it is not unheard of for baggage trucks to hit a refuelling hose or hydrant pit valve, which will trigger the emergency shut down process to stop the free flow of fuel to reduce the risk of fire.
With so many aircraft looking almost identical and new aircraft coming to the market all the time, a simple visual check or asking the pilot to verify the fuel grade required is not enough as proven in recent tragic crashes. A decal should be on every aircraft and it should always be clearly visible. It’s worth reminding your customers that although we operate a no decal no fuel policy, decals are readily available from our fuelling operators. Customers just need to ask.
Airfield Automation, which we started rolling out just over two years ago, is another way in which we’re helping to reduce the risk of misfuelling. There are now 15,000 fuellings a month using this digital platform, which enhances safety, reliability and compliance in airport fuelling operations. The development of this unique technology has been an extensive collaboration with airport operators and airlines and has safety at the heart of it. The cloud-based platform accessed via a hand-held device performs a number of checks in an enhanced three-way cross check that needs to be satisfied electronically before the refuelling starts.
Not only does it aim to prevent the ‘one in a million’ risk of misfuelling. It is also a genuinely efficient piece of technology which is paperless from the beginning to end and has an impressive 99% data invoice accuracy.
As a company Air BP has a very strong safety culture. We want our people, our customers and their customers to be safe. Carefully designed, reliable, up-to-date and well-maintained equipment is essential for an efficient operation. It’s only by maintaining these high standards we keep customers taking off on time.
For more information on Airfield Automation click here.