What's Fueling Aviation?

Cover Story

What's Fueling Aviation?

Representatives from fueling equipment and storage manufacturer/contractors to ground handling companies that provide fueling services were interviewed recently by GSE Today. Not surprising, concerns for all parties went beyond what's fueling aviation.

By Michelle Garetson/p>

By Michelle Garetson

June/July 2002

Ground Support Equipment monthly cover imageQuestion:What are some of the critical issues facing your operation?
Answer:"Biggest challenge is getting knowledgeable staff. We could use more people — primarily, quality welding people," says John Bernard, Aviation Services Manager for Double Check Co. Inc., a fuel storage system manufacturer and contractor, that is also licensed for below-ground systems.

"Savannah has two fueling vehicles there — one is 2 years old, one is about 22 years old. Parts are a challenge to find. Sometimes they need to be machined," answers DALGlobal Services' President, Jim McCarthy. DALGlobal Services provides all types of ground services including aircraft maintenance and GSE maintenance, and has its fueling services located in Savannah, Georgia.

Barry Nassberg , Worldwide Flight Services' Senior Vice President - International Asia Pacific and Middle East explains, "Most critical issue is the need to establish intoplane fueling service as a service separate and distinct from that of the fuel supplier. The into-plane function has traditionally been promoted by suppliers as a component of fuel sales. In fact, it is not. It is a ground handling activity that needs to be operated and managed in a manner not vastly different from other ramp handling activities. We lobby airlines and airports on this issue, promoting the concept of open access fuel systems, utilizing independent into-plane operators. Hong Kong is a rare example of an airport that has embraced this concept, with extraordinary success. As a result, into-plane fees are among the lowest in Asia."

Question: How have mergers and acquisitions in aviation affected your company?
Answer: "From our standpoint, there are less buyers," says Bernard. "Buyers have pretty much been the major oil companies. Pricing structure has definitely shifted toward volume buys."

"It does affect us eventually," explains McCarthy, "but I don't think we're going to see much in the next 18 months. Consolidation in the airline industry will happen - not for revenue growth , but to reduce capacity."

Question: What kind of training does your company offer?
Answer:"We do on-site training for customers on proper operation of our systems," explains Bernard. "We've had a few employees go through the NATA Line Service Training and really liked it. Most major oil companies offer classes and Safety 1st training."

"We provide on-site training and service calls to wherever our product is sold. In addition, we have set up a hands-on
seminar at the Determan facility to show our customers how to use and how to troubleshoot equipment," says Scott Thomas, Director of Sales for Determan Brownie Inc., which manufactures aviation refueling equipment.

DAL Global Services' McCarthy says, "Four days of classroom and one day on the job. All programs use the mentor approach and mentors make the call as to whether or not the candidate is ready."

"Annual recurrent training and recertification is required," says Nassberg. "Additional training is required by airlines for whom we operate the fuel control panels."

Question: What do you feel are the emerging markets for your products/services?
Answer: "Last year, it was GA self-serve fueling systems," says Bernard. This year, military, and larger fixed base operators."

"For our fueling equipment, the national carriers -just received a big order from a major airline," says Thomas.

With a security services firm being a major product line of DALGLobal Services, McCarthy offers that "TSA and Homeland Security may offer opportunities."

"We believe the industry trend is moving to open access systems. Airlines are demanding it, and airport authorities see it as a means of reducing the control a limited number of suppliers may have on fuel prices," comments Nassberg.

Fred Workley, president of Workley Aircraft and Maintenance Inc. has discovered a new moon rising around airports. Workley performs non-destructive testing on aircraft with composite wings and he's finding strange occurrences of half-moon shaped designs embedded on aircraft wings — most of them located to the right of the fuel tank's opening.

At one airport, Workley observed a fueler plunk the fuel nozzle directly down on the wing next to the opening, open the tank, pick up the hose and begin fueling. When finished, the fueler dropped the nozzle back down next to the opening and closed the tank. Workley found that many airports in other areas of the country had the same types of wing damage and theorizes that the "drop-fueldrop" method is taking place.

He explains that on a composite surface there is often no visible damage — the damage is below the surface in the form of delaminations and crushed core material ranging from the size of a dime to the size of a quarter. Sometimes these delaminated areas join together and form what looks like a blister or sometimes, an "oil canning" of the stiff surface material. Repair often requires using a hot bonder with vacuum to fix the damage.

Take a good look at how aircraft is being fueled at your location. Bad moons can be avoided if you keep your guard up, and off, the wing when fueling.