Technology has reached a point where paper can now be completely eliminated. Fuels management systems now allow fuel request to be generated electronically and transmitted wirelessly to handheld or mobile (vehicle-mounted) computers. The same computers are able to capture data in real-time and transmit the final transaction back to the fuels management system. With open communications and systems interfaces, the data can also be made available to airline or service provider accounting and business systems or deployed as an ACARS (aircraft communication addressing and reporting system) message to the aircraft flight deck. These systems are setting new standards for the aviation fueling industry and many airlines have positioned themselves to process change and deploy this type of solution.
The Wireless Revolution
Few companies are at the forefront of all developments, integrating the latest computer systems, wireless communications and hardware technologies for scalable fuel ticketing solutions. More recent developments are designed to ensure all fuel-related information and fuel updates are passed securely to the fuel agent in real-time to help reduce delays. Wireless technologies, such as 802.11, Bluetooth and wireless VPNs, are being used to ensure security and reliability of data over wireless networks. Varec’s FuelsManager Aviation system utilizes hardware, software and wireless communications with proven success for a “no-paper” fueling process. It begins by communicating flight and fuel load assignments over secured wireless connections to ruggedized data collection computers at the wing tip. Built-in checks and measures ensure all information is valid, including validation that an aircraft is at the correct gate before fueling commences. During fueling, the ruggedized computers collect meter data via Bluetooth communications and perform automatic fuel calculations to create an electronic fuel ticket for the transaction. The validated fuel transaction is then transmitted from the handheld to the aircraft flight deck via ACARS and via wireless LAN or VLAN to the back office systems.
FuelsManager Aviation also utilizes wireless communications to relay updated information in real time; if the fuel load or aircraft changes while the flight is being serviced or a flight is over or under fueled, the fuel agent or dispatcher is immediately notified.
If the airline or service provider still requires paper tickets, they can be printed at the gate, in the back office, at the wing tip or anywhere within the system where there is an available printer; however, the master information is always held electronically.
Partnerships between the solutions providing companies, such as Varec and mobile computer and data collection device manufacturers, will push the boundaries of mobile computing at airports. The ruggedized devices used in fueling applications will soon be used for a multitude of other needs, including gathering quality control information, real-time credit card sales authorizations, two-way voice transmissions, GPS positioning and automatic data collection from aircraft fuel tank gauges. These benefits will be realized quickly by companies that make a step and introduce the new technology.
Moving Forward and Selecting a Solution
Today’s technology has yielded many automation options, although you must know what to look for to assure a solution is right for you. As with any new system, beware of a customized, one-of-a-kind system that soon becomes costly and unsupportable. Ten years ago, major software companies like Microsoft were unable to offer the types of software development tools they can today. Corporations were unsure of future software platform developments and, therefore, developed their own customized systems to support their businesses. These systems are now outdated and unsupportable, yet cost millions of dollars through the years.
If you are currently investigating how you can improve your fuel operations, you should be sure to identify a solution that can provide:
- Real-time electronic fuel tickets at the wing tip with ACARS ticket delivery
- Varied options for fuel data collection, such as batch or kiosk data entry and ticket printing at the wing tip, for your different sized fueling operations
- Innovative web-based systems seen in other industries, such as possible ticket entry over the Internet
- Scalable solutions to fit the needs of all of your operations, from the largest hub to a smallest out station
- A proven, commercial off-the-shelf system, based on a recognized software platform with planned future enhancements and product upgrades to ensure longevity and supportability
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