The Consequences of “Knowing”

Dec. 17, 2020
When an employee works based on just what he or she thinks they know, tragedy can strike.

There are times when tribal knowledge can be a benefit. For example, when training new employees, it can be helpful when discussing the background of the organization, lessons learned, and how to best work and communicate with fellow staff and customers. But it also has the potential for serious negative consequences, especially when old habits become today’s norms.

Keith Clark, quality control and technical support rep, Phillips 66 Aviation, says tribal knowledge can wreak havoc when it comes to a fueling operation and lead to inadvertent misfuelings.

“One negative example of tribal knowledge that I see is with verifying fuel type. People learn that a certain type of aircraft takes a certain type of fuel. Somebody trained them to believe that’s fact, and it becomes common knowledge. Because of that, they don’t verify fuel type with the pilot,” Clark says.

 Misfueling can easily become a deadly mistake and is why Clark pushes communication in training and urges other trainers to do the same.

“As a part of Phillips 66’s Save a Life, Verify Fuel Type campaign, we’re raising awareness of the critical need to communicate and confirm fuel type with the pilot,” adds Clark. “The pilot must also communicate fuel type and confirm fuel type. Communication between the pilot and line staff is the first step in preventing misfuelings. Pilot confirmation of fuel type before leaving the airport is the final step.”

Clark says tribal knowledge can show its ugly side when it comes to filtration as well, since the aviation industry is constantly changing related standards and guidelines.

“For example, the industry changed the coalescer/separator elements to 6th edition in 2016 and the monitor, or water absorbing, elements were changed to 7th edition in 2018. This was years ago, but I’m seeing FBOs use the old filters,” says Clark.

He adds that it isn’t just an FBO problem, but an issue on the supplier side too.

“Because they still produce the older versions of those filters for other non-aviation applications, they get mistakenly distributed to FBOs. The FBO staff should ask the filter distributor for the current filter similarity data sheet and verify the elements are the latest edition and applicable with their fuel type,” Clark says.

He adds that when ordering filter elements, always order by giving this information: Model and serial number of filter vessel, fuel type (Jet A, Jet A with FSII, or Avgas 100LL) and the location of vessel (fuel farm or refueler).