The Responsibility of Q.C.
From the refinery to preflight, fuel must be continually monitored
By Vern Triebel, Quality Control Director, Phillips 66 Aviation
Teaching safety and quality control measures reduces the odds against
the possibility of human error during aircraft
refueling, and helps FBO line managers to reevaluate their own programs in the interest of safer operations.
Every act that moves a private aircraft
into the world of flight is the responsibility of the fixed base operator
(FBO), the fuel supplier, or the pilot. In the case of aviation fuel safety,
all three must take active steps to ensure quality control measures are
being taken at different points in the process.
Quality checks are imperative after the fuel has been produced at the supplier’s terminal, when it is delivered to the FBO, after it has been added to the FBO’s fuel tanks, and of course, when it is pumped into an aircraft.
TAKING RESPONSIBILIT FOR QUALITY
To maintain consistent performance standards with all refined fuels, oil companies supplying the general aviation market strictly adhere to internal audits on fuel quality as well as work closely with each of their FBO outlets to adhere to quality standards and promote safety in handling fuels. This includes teams of experts who travel to FBOs to inspect fueling equipment, test fuel quality, and reinforce with FBO management the preventive maintenance and field testing steps necessary to maintain safe fueling operations.
Often, the job of "line technician" is an entry-level, high-turnover position. This means that in the sensitive area of fueling, the person in charge of the fueling of a multimillion dollar jet has a great deal of responsibility.
With this reality, the importance of ensuring that FBOs are being supplied with clean, dry fuel, and that the fuel is maintained properly on-site cannot be overstated.
Oil companies help FBOs manage this risk by offering line training programs in the form of literature, videos, and seminars, often free of charge. The responsibility for well-trained, reliable line technicians, however, rests with the FBO. Line managers and personnel need information to strengthen existing fuel quality control programs, run safer operations, and reduce the possibility of human error which can be a factor when it comes to a fueling mishap.
Take, for example, the FBO that accepted a transport shipment of what was believed to be avgas even though the line manager hadn’t scheduled a delivery. The transport driver was told to off-load the fuel without anyone at the FBO first checking the paperwork.
Once at the fuel farm, a line technician also failed to check delivery paperwork before connecting the hose and accepted the fuel without first doing a "clear and bright" white bucket test.
Fortunately, the line manager arrived before the first drop was pumped into the fuel farm. The line manager checked the paperwork and discovered not only that the shipment was meant for another FBO, but that it was jet fuel rather than 100LL avgas. Had the paperwork been properly examined — or, failing that, had the white bucket test been administered — the line technician would have known immediately that something was wrong.