A question: Does buying courtesy fuel add unnecessary risk?
By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director
actually have some specific priorities that we are looking
for from a fixed base operator,? explains Schwartz.
?First is to ensure that our aircraft are safe and secure
on the FBO ramp. The second is that the FBO is able
to deliver quality and services consistent with our
ability to deliver our product to our passengers.
third priority is price. We will never sacrifice the
first two in order to get a lower price on fuel. The
fuel price is a discriminator only when we?ve leveled
the playing field in terms of safety and quality of
Barth, ?We?ve had occasions where aircraft have been
dinged on ramps and it?s extremely costly and causes
a great deal of grief and really disrupts the schedule.?
Schwartz, ?Our product is not travel; our product is
time. Anything that interferes with us delivering that
product is something we need to remove.?
concern being raised among FBO and airport managers
is the impact that the growing fleet of higher end corporate
aircraft is having on ramp areas that have not kept
pace. In particular, it is becoming an increasing concern
for insurance companies and one reason, say insurance
officials, for recent policy increases.
certainly seen that,? says Schwartz. ?It?s a concern
for us, the kind of training people are getting, the
way aircraft are handled on ramps and in hangars, the
way aircraft are protected on ramps and in hangars.
We particularly worry about those things in the middle
of the night when they?re positioning aircraft and you?ve
got the most junior people on duty with the least supervision.
Those kinds of issues are big for us.?
says that in the past 12 months AT&T?s flight department
has changed FBOs at two airports it frequents because
of exactly that type of safety concern.
those decisions were made after a great deal of assessment
and internal discussion,? he explains. ?In fact, in
both cases we sent people out to personally survey the
facilities that we were leaving and going to. We talked
to the FBOs and even the airport managers about the
situations we were encountering.
relationships we have with the FBOs are important to
us, so we don?t change easily. We?re a loyal customer
when we?re getting what we need.?
Barth, ?We don?t change FBOs on a whim. We establish
relationships with people who do a good job related
to safety, service, and cost. But we?ve made changes
recently because of ramp congestion problems.?
inadequacy of some ramp facilities leads Schwartz to
question his company?s policy and that of others to
purchase courtesy fuel when accessing an FBO?s facilities.
want to spend some money with you because they?re going
to be on your ramp,? he says. ?It makes me question
if we want to do something like that. Do we want to
take the risk of a 19-year old kid that?s making $8
an hour and doesn?t really know what he?s doing just
to do a favor for the FBO? I?d rather give them $100
for letting us sit on the ramp; I would rather pay a
ramp access fee than to buy fuel and be seen as a good
AN EYE ON TRAINING
Schwartz has been with AT&T for some 18 months, following his position as corporate director of standards for FlightSafety International. Barth is a 23-year veteran with AT&T and was active in putting together the schedulers and dispatchers group that has become a critical link to aviation service providers. Both men emphasize the need for ongoing training at FBO line departments.
Barth, ?Focus on training safety. Really sit down with
the line personnel and talk about the cost of these
airplanes, about how important working as a team can
be. And don?t take on more aircraft than a ramp can
handle. At some point, you just might have to shut it
Schwartz, ?Things that are important to us are trained
and qualified people; good ramp control; well-marked
and identified ramp hazards; and good communication.
They can advise things such as helicopter activity or
ground vehicles accessing the ramp.?
Schwartz currently serves as chair of the Safety Committee of the NBAA, and says the committee has formed a working group to look at safety concerns at line service departments. (For information on how to get involved with the NBAA working group, contact Doug Carr at (202) 783-9000.)