Standards for Airline Refueling

July 8, 1999

Standards For Airline Refueling

Council's goal: One safe procedure for each airliner

BY John F. Infanger, editorial director

July 1999

Bob Jandebeur

Bob JandebeurBob Jandebeur, president of Million Air Tulsa, and a number of representatives from airlines and airline servicing companies are currently working on Draft No. 20 of a document that carries the working title, "New Joint NATA-ATA Airlines Fueling Standards." The fact that there have been 20 versions of this evolving document indicates the time and effort put into the two-year initiative.

The goal is to create one universally accepted and safe way of fueling each airline-category aircraft. If successful, it would bring about nothing short of a revolution for fixed base operators and airline servicing companies who currently have service contracts with airlines. It would also have a significant impact on training and on bringing new line technicians up to speed more quickly. And, it would be linked to the Internet to allow for interactivity and for updating procedures almost instantaneously.

Out Of Many, One
Explains Jandebeur, who serves as chair of the Airline Services Council that is spearheading the effort, "Fueling procedures of an actual aircraft are determined by each airline. So there's basically 50 different ways to fuel a 737, but there's really only one good way with a couple of variations, depending on an airline's specific uniqueness for that type of aircraft.

"So, the intent is to train the fuelers to the aircraft instead of the airline. And the mission is to get all the airlines to agree that there is a common manner of doing that."

The Council, which is affiliated with the National Air Transportation Association, has among its membership FBOs and airline servicing companies. Airlines — members of the Air Transport Association — that have been involved include Federal Express, United, Delta, and American. Other active members include Signature Flight Support, DynAir, and Hudson General.

ATA is a critical link in reaching the target, says Jandebeur. At a June meeting, ATA was represented by Ed Merlis, director of government affairs, and Robert Peel of technical standards. "They've agreed there's an opportunity," says Jandebeur. "They're the next step." Another meeting in July in Tulsa with the ATA technical committee is scheduled. After that comes the rest of the services industry.

Jandebeur is quick to point out that it is not an exclusive club. The Tulsa committee's effort has been of the behind-the-scenes variety primarily because the goal, at the outset, loomed far beyond the horizon. There would come a time, they reasoned, when they had enough consensus to present to the rest of the industry. That time is now.

Says Jandebeur, "We've kind of been holding something that belongs to the industry out there. We were hesitant to give it to others until we knew who it was we should get permission from." That needs to be a central organization such as ATA. NATA could coordinate the Internet interactivity, he says, and could recoup its administrative costs by charging nominal fees for testing, etc., he explains.

Globally, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is anxious about implementation of such standards, and has targeted funding for the program, according to Jandebeur.

Update; Other Benefits
The "Standards" document is by no means complete, explains Jandebeur, and the next step in the process calls for corporate agreement from represented companies. Then the rest of the industry must begin signing off. "We're open to suggestions," says Jandebeur.

To date, the document details procedures for Boeing 777 and 737 aircraft. "We wanted to push two aircraft through the template," explains Jandebeur, "so the rest of the 19 airplanes listed (in the document) could go through that template."

He estimates that if only a projected 10 percent reduction in airline fueling delays and training costs is realized, it could result in savings of $4.5 million for the airlines and $2 million for FBOs and service providers. Another study done by Flight Safety International says that ramp-related aircraft damage costs $2 billion or more each year and is increasing by 9 percent annually. More focused training up front will improve safety, says Jandebeur, and also turn the new hire into a company asset in less time.

Making the training all computer based and accessible via the Internet will keep it up to date, while also reducing the administrative burden related to training. Tests, etc., can all be done online and with a quick turn. "If this is a real-time document on electronic means, revisions will be noted and implemented instantaneously," Jandebeur says.

Jandebeur estimates his FBO would save at least $3,500 a year with the standards program, but emphasizes that his one location's savings will pale in comparison to larger, multiple location service providers. (At Tulsa, Million Air handles 17 airlines, 100 flights a day.) He thinks the impact on his line department will reach further in scope, helping to solidify a core workforce in a department whose trademark is turnover.

Another "next step" in the process, says Jandebeur, is getting FAA involved. "This is going to be somewhat revolutionary," says Jandebeur, "to the extent that the airlines are going to go to the FAA and say, we're all going to have a document, but we're each going to be responsible to update and amend it."

Jandebeur estimates that, once finalized, it would cost some $1-2 million to reproduce and distribute the document. He says it would be made available industrywide, but would be presented as an ATA document. There is no interest in "commercializing" the standards document, says Jandebeur.

One hurdle facing the program in the months ahead will be standardizing the fuel slip. "It is a sacred cow; the fuel slip is not something you want to mess with," says Jandebeur, who remains determined to see the process through and create a standard form that contains the basic elements arranged in the same manner. Although the airlines may agree on 99 percent of the process, the standards do allow for that 1 percent difference. "We're not trying to create an exact box," says Jandebaur. Toward that end, he asks for interested parties who want to get involved in the airline standardized refueling program, or need more information, to call him at (800) 75-TULSA.