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No decal no fuel - why safe refuelling is our priority

Release date: October 2019

Avgas and Jet A1 nozzle and decal comparison diagram
Putting the wrong fuel in your car might not be something you’ve ever done, but it’s likely you know someone who has. In most cases the consequences aren’t disastrous, just expensive with breakdown companies able to pump the incorrect fuel out of the car, flush it through and get the driver back on the road. But delivering the incorrect type of fuel into an aircraft (which is known as misfuelling) is a very different matter. It can have serious, potentially fatal consequences, which is why Air BP operates a ‘no decal, no fuel’ policy

 

What is a decal? If you’re not already familiar with a decal, it’s essentially a sticker located next to the fuelling orifice on an aircraft which denotes the fuel grade required.

 

“Manufacturers of over-wing fuelled aircraft have never standardised the over-wing orifice size,” says Kerry Rutherford, Air BP’s technical director.

 

And while the size of the nozzles used in over-wing fuelling differs for different grades of fuel – typically a narrow nozzle is used for fuelling with Avgas and a wider nozzle when refuelling with Jet fuel – this is still a fairly weak barrier to prevent misfuelling.

 

“There are various steps we have taken as a company to prevent misfuelling. Having a decal sticker located next to the refuelling orifice confirming which fuel grade is required is a crucial part of the process.”

 

Air BP’s operators always perform a three-way cross check before refuelling an aircraft:

  • Confirm the fuel request form
  • check the decal
  • confirm the fuel grade in the truck or fixed equipment is correct.

 

“However, on occasions when no decal is visible – it could be faded, or painted over etc. – our operators are prepared and carry spare ones with them to distribute to customers. The customer will be expected to complete a fuel grade verification form confirming the fuel grade and volume required. Once that’s complete, they will be issued a new decal which they must stick to the aircraft themselves,” explains Rutherford.

 

Generally speaking, people are a reliable barrier to preventing an aircraft being fuelled with the incorrect grade of fuel. But with more than one million over-wing refuellings per year and misfuelling a significant concern within the general aviation industry, Air BP doesn’t consider that the people barrier in isolation is adequate. Subsequently it has been innovating with engineering barriers to help prevent misfuelling altogether.

 

“We are now well into the implementation of deploying Airfield Automation across our network, to eliminate the ‘one in a million’ human error that can happen when refuelling an aircraft,” says Rutherford.

 

This pioneering technology includes the Safe2Go app – a cloud-based platform that consolidates all the data associated with Air BP’s refuelling operations.

 

“The app is on a hand-held device, similar to an industrial-style mobile phone. It is also integrated so that it captures all the fuel volume readings from the meter on the vehicle and performs a number of checks in an enhanced three-way cross check, including scanning the decal, that need to be satisfied electronically before the refuelling starts. The app then electronically captures customer details, which are confirmed with an electronic signature from the pilot or airline. The device must be placed back in its holster inside the truck cab before refuelling can commence,” says Rutherford.

 

The aim is to have Air BP’s Airfield Automation technology fully operational at around 350 locations around the world by the end of 2020.

 

While the safe2go app provides added protection when refuelling takes place.

 

Rutherford concludes, “you can still expect the Air BP operator to check the decal and request confirmation of the fuel grade when an order is placed. But remember if you don’t have a decal, just ask the operator or your local Air BP account holder to supply you with a new one and they’ll be happy to oblige!”

 

Find out more about Airfield Automation click here.