Supervisor Training

July 8, 2003
NATA course focuses on safety, effective management of line operations

LAS VEGAS — While exhibitors for the AS3/GSE Expo were setting up booths at the annual convention held here in May, line service supervisors were undergoing two days of training for the National Air Transportation Association’s Line Service Supervisor Training seminar. Speakers shared tips and procedures on everything from training employees, proper delivery of fuel, to being a good supervisor and hiring/firing practices.

Day one featured speakers from Air BP, Gammon Technical, Velcon Filters, and Hammonds.

Walter Chartrand, Air BP, emphasizes the importance of training for all employees to prevent fuel contamination, aircraft misfueling, fuel spills, and personal injury. “We ask [the line service workers] to do a lot,” he says. “Do we provide the proper training for them to operate safely?”

He says an established training program should be in place at each service company. The program should not be dependent on merely one employee. In the event that person is not available or leaves the company, there should always be someone available who knows the processes and procedures.

To ensure safe operations, Chartrand says it’s necessary to think ahead and use risk assessment. That is, where might the dangers be?

Chartrand adds that it’s necessary to document all training because that will serve as the most effective tool in the defense of a lawsuit.

To prevent misfueling and contamination, it’s imperative that fuel is inspected before being deposited in a fixed base operator’s tanks.


When receiving fuel, Jim Gammon, Gammon Technical Products, Inc., offers the following guidelines:

  • Check the paperwork. the loading ticket; bill of lading; freight bill; and any other paperwork to make sure it matches, and the trailer number is correct. Also verify from the paperwork that the fuel is at the correct facility and is the correct fuel. Find out what type fuel was last carried in the truck. (Is there flushing paperwork?)
  • Check the fuel quality. It’s imperative to check the delivery hose for any debris or wear; check the truck’s pump if it’s used to unload the fuel; use the white bucket test at each compartment (fuel should be clean and bright); and use a hydrometer to test for mixed fuels.
  • Jet-A can range from clear as water to amber as straw; 80/87 Avgas should be red; 100/LL Avgas should be blue; and 100/130 Avgas should be green. Pipings for each fuel should also be clearly marked at the fuel farm. Jet-A pipes are to have white letters on a black background with one black band around the pipe; 80/87 Avgas pipes are marked with white letters on a red background with one red band; 100/LL Avgas is designated by white letters on a red background with one blue band; and 100/130 Avgas is marked by white letters on a red background with one green band.
  • If there is any doubt about the integrity of the fuel, refuse the load.
  • Before unloading the fuel into storage, stick the tank to make sure there is enough room for the volume of fuel that is going to be deposited. Any water from the tank and filter should be sumped. The differential pressure on the filter should be monitored and the fuel should be sampled with a minimonitor or millipore tester. Check the filter sump and the tank volume after unloading and record the data.

According to Chartrand, a misfueling prevention program is an example of how an FBO can protect itself from what could be a disastrous mistake. The program should include: thorough training, selective couplings, J-spout Jet-A nozzles, signed service orders, aircraft fuel grade decals prominently displayed, and refuelers with prominent fuel grade markings.


Frank Surface, principal, Moneywise Solutions, worked with the attendees for a day on the responsibilities involved with being a supervisor. One exercise he asked the group to participate in involves describing the best and then the worst supervisors each had ever encountered. Then all were asked to think about the way their subordinates might describe them. “If your employees made a list about you, how would you stack up?,” Surface asks. This activity is designed to help the supervisors step back and evaluate their own managerial style.

He points out some key mistakes supervisors make that challenge their effectiveness and authority:

  • Refusing to assess their own performance realistically;
  • Failure to set good examples for employees to follow;
  • Failure to keep their word;
  • Trying to be liked rather than respected (demonstrating a lack of maturity, says Surface);
  • Failure to keep criticism constructive;
  • Failure to pay attention to employee complaints;
  • Failure to make sound and timely decisions;
  • Failure to make sure the job assignment is understood and accomplished;
  • Failure to keep people informed (“How do you expect them to perform as a team when they don’t know what play is called?,” asks Surface);
  • Refusing to train an assistant to take their place.


One of the tasks of a supervisor is hiring employees. Surface explains there are four main management styles: analytical, driver, amiable, and expressive. “In an immature industry, we hire expressives,” he says. And, according to Surface, the FBO industry is an immature one. Expressives make up approximately 10 to 20 percent of the population and are the sort of person who is gregarious, friendly, confident, trusting, poised, charming, and sociable. In the interview process, this might seem like the kind of employee anyone would want, especially in a service industry. However, Surface explains these are also the type of employees who are more likely to not stay in a position for an extended period of time, and also tend to be impulsive, sensitive, and self-promoting.

Instead of hiring expressives, Surface suggests considering an analytical person as the ideal employee. He or she tends to be conscientious, precise, accurate, restrained, factual, and discrete.

There will be times when it is necessary for a supervisor to let go of an employee. “When you fire someone, you’re giving them a chance to be happy,” Surface says. Someone who is not doing well at his or her job is not taking pride in the work assigned and therefore is probably very unhappy. Supervisors should think of firing as a positive experience for that employee.

Before firing someone, Surface recommends asking:

  • Is there anything that this person could say that would cause me to change my mind? If yes, then discipline the employee and do not fire him or her. If no, then move forward with termination.
  • Discuss your decision and reasons with at least one other person that is not as close to the situation emotionally as you may be.
  • Do not make the decision in a moment of emotion.
  • Consider all that has to happen when the person is terminated. What property does he or she have access to? What uniforms or keys? Is the person prone to outbursts?
  • Who can be your “box person?” (Person that escorts the employee off the premises.)
  • Are you prepared in case the person loses his/her temper?

Line Training Materials From NATA

The National Air Transportation Association has put together a complete training curriculum for line service and safety training.

The Professional Line Service Training (PLST) program is combined with NATA’s Safety 1st® Program. The PLST is made up of five hours of video presentation and integrates nine separate modules. They include: Introduction and Ground Servicing; Customer Service; Safety; Refueling Piston Aircraft; Towing; Refueling Turboprop Aircraft; Refueling Jet Aircraft; Fire Safety; and Fuel Farm Management.

A workbook supplements the video presentation, and helps students organize and master the large volume of training material presented in the PLST. Also included are a Trainer’s Guidebook, offering an overview of how the PLST curriculum should be presented, and the Aircraft Service Guide, featuring diagrams and service data for more than 150 types of aircraft and helicopters.

Upon successful completion of the PLST program, line service technicians receive a certificate of achievement from NATA Safety 1st.

The next NATA Line Service Supervisor Training seminar is scheduled for September 18-19 at the Tennessee Museum of Aviation in Sevierville, TN. For information, visit