Raising the Bar on Refueling

As industry standards evolve, FBOs need to assess how well they are keeping up

“Among the provisions in ATA Specification 103 is a statement that airport fueling vendors with administrative and operational responsibilities should have operation and maintenance manuals identifying the practices and procedures they use to help ensure the safe and dependable flow of quality, on-specification fuel to aircraft. This document, the ATA Airport Fuel Facility Operations & Maintenance (O&M) Guidance Manual, is intended to provide guidance on the preparation and content of such a manual.”

“Accordingly, it identifies operating procedures as they pertain to fueling methods, storage, receipt, and transfer to help ensure the safe and dependable flow of quality, on-specification fuel to aircraft and to facilitate good management practices and consideration of environmental requirements related to these activities and practices that promote environmental protection.”

This Air Transport Association Guidance Manual is included with a purchase of the ATA 103 specification and is intended to serve as a practical reference for aviation fuel facilities to use in preparing their own site-specific Operations and Maintenance Manuals. 

A site-specific O&M Manual should include many specifics on the particular site and local requirements; but, where relevant, may also include language taken directly out of this Guidance Manual. The objective of this document is to serve as a template for an O&M plan for any facility that needs written procedures for its fuel facility operations. It is not intended to demonstrate compliance or non-compliance with any regulations.

The most important point: Airport fuel providers should know, own, train to, and operate by their own “customized” manual that describes their own facility in detail. Merely handing an inspector the fuel provider’s quality control manual will not come close to meeting this requirement.

Not having this manual places the fuel provider in violation with the airline and the DESC, as some aviation fuel providers have discovered after a DESC inspection. Having one in place will help locations clear this new bar.

New Standards Coming?
As with automotive safety standards, technology has advanced in the aviation fueling business. Some of these may become industry standards in the near future. These may include intelligent additive injectors that monitor FSII additive injection rates; safety hand rails on the top of refuelers to meet OSHA requirements for working at height; secondary high level shutoff system for refuelers; reclaim tanks for the recovery and recycling of fuel drawn for QC testing; and line service training offered in an Online web-based format that monitors access, improves presentation, and automatically documents the progress and performance of the student.

Safety Management Systems (SMS) are quickly being identified as the next industry standard to be widely adopted. Even FAA intends to implement the use of SMS at U.S. airports to meet the intent of the ICAO standard in a way that complements existing airport safety regulations in 14 CFR Part 139, Certification of Airports.

The benefits of an SMS are described by NATA, which offers a system specifically suited to ground service and fuel providers:

“NATA’s SMS takes the guesswork out of operating safely and goes well beyond preventing accidents by helping establish a strong safety culture at companies. If a company operates, handles, or services aircraft, the SMS will absolutely improve their bottom-line performance. Simply put, by eliminating accidents, incidents, and injuries, companies will be able to redirect those dollars back to their business. SMS will also enhance reputations as customers see a more professional organization.

I am a big fan of the SMS process and feel this could be the perfect catalyst to take safety performance to the next level in our industry. These are well-proven systems that have been around for some time. In my opinion, those organizations that successfully adopted a SMS did so because they established a proactive safety culture across the whole organization.

In every case I have seen, the key to their success was that the effort was led from the very top of the management team. It’s critical to identify and proactively manage all the risks in the business. Risk management is not the responsibility of one person or even a department. It is everyone’s responsibility and begins from the top down with committed, visible leadership.

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