Fueling airplanes before the next flight is a critical element of air traffic control. Due to the high frequency of flights scheduled for each aircraft, ground fueling needs to be efficient—wasting as little time as possible—and safe. One problem that the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) has pointed out is fueling staff not using the fuel nozzle properly, leading to misfuelling instances.
Misfuelling can lead to shortcomings of the aircraft’s engine, sometimes after takeoff, putting lives at risk. That’s why establishing safety and procedural protocols for aviation ground fueling is necessary for all industry businesses. Luckily, being safe doesn’t necessarily mean being slow or inefficient. Proper management and preparation can help you achieve the right balance between speed and safety.
Training Requirements and Standards
A trained staff is a must in any industry, but especially in an industry as precise as aviation. Having the right equipment doesn’t negate the need for well-trained and experienced staff to operate the equipment and handle emergencies.
Working with adequate staff starts from the hiring process; make sure you only attract qualified talent and keep them by offering great benefits and a suitable work environment. Second, make sure your team stays on top of the latest technologies you decide to implement, ensuring their training is always up to date.
Federal Aviation Administration Compliance
One way to make sure you’re on the right track is to continuously check that you’re complying with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) rules and regulations.
Fueling safety regulations range from fire control emergency procedures to general safety equipment requirements, covering fuel storage vessels, fuel transportation vehicles, and pumping tools.
Keep in mind that the FFA’s requirements and recommendations are subject to change. When updates occur, be sure to re-educate your staff and implement any necessary changes.
Proper Use of Labels and Decals
Ground fueling needs to happen quickly to avoid delays in the flight schedule, creating opportunities for mistakes and oversight. To prevent errors, you must have proper labels and decals on everything used in the fueling process.
Aviation specific decals aren’t as simple as naming the equipment; proper decals need to hold key information to what the tool does, simple instructions on how it works, and safety warnings. Decals and labels also need to be easy to see and read in various light conditions, placed in clear view for the staff, easy to understand at a glance, and able to withstand exposure to extreme weather. Sometimes, you need several decals to point out different information; one for a warning, one working as a straightforward label, and another with instructions.
Fuel Spill Clean-up Precaution and Procedures
Regardless of all the precautions you take, mistakes and errors will occur, and you need to prepare for them with the right tools. Fuel spilling on the runway can happen before, during, or after the ground fueling process and can be a safety hazard regardless of the amount spilled.
Necessary fueling equipment for the aviation industry includes a complete fuel spill kit. The kit should have absorbent rolls and rags, booms to isolate the spill and prevent it from spreading, and fuel-safe containers for collection, among other things.
But having a spill kit prepared alone isn’t enough—in case of a spill, your staff needs to act quickly to limit the damages. Proper training is necessary so that each team member is responsible for a specific part of the clean-up process. Without designated roles, even a team of experts can waste time and become disorganized and overwhelmed by the accident.
Attention to Detail
Ground teams are responsible for fueling massive machines, but their work relies on detail. To support your ground fueling staff, always listen to concerns about equipment quality, role designations, and official safety regulations. Achieving the right balance between safety and fueling speed is the key to an efficient aviation business, and your team needs the right equipment and guidance to find that balance.