Misfueling an aircraft can have very dire consquences that can lead to tragedy. Kerry Rutherford, Air bp Technical Director, provides this brief on what his company is doing to reduce the chances of misfueling.
Putting the wrong fuel in your car might not be something you’ve ever done, but it’s likely you know someone who has. In most cases the consequences aren’t disastrous, just expensive with breakdown companies able to pump the incorrect fuel out of the car, flush it through and get the driver back on the road.
But delivering the incorrect fuel into an aircraft (known as misfueling) is a very different matter. It can have serious, potentially fatal consequences, which is why Air bp operates a "no decal, no fuel" policy.
What is a decal? If you’re not already familiar with a decal, it’s essentially a sticker located next to the fuelling orifice on an aircraft which denotes the fuel grade required.
Manufacturers of over-wing fueled aircraft have never standardised the over-wing orifice size, and while the size of the nozzles used in over-wing fueling differs for different grades of fuel–typically a narrow nozzle is used for fueling with Avgas and a wider nozzle when refueling with jet fuel–this is still a fairly weak barrier to prevent misfueling.
There are various steps we have taken to prevent misfueling. Having a decal sticker located next to the refueling orifice confirming which fuel grade is required is a crucial part of the process.
Air bp’s operators always perform a three-way cross check before refueling an aircraft:
- Confirm the fuel request form
- Check the decal
- Confirm the fuel grade in the truck or fixed equipment is correct.
However, on occasions when no decal is visible–it could be faded, or painted over–our operators are prepared and carry spare ones with them to distribute to customers. The customer will need to complete a fuel grade verification form confirming the grade and volume required. They will then be issued a new decal which they must stick to the aircraft themselves.
Generally speaking, people are a reliable barrier to help prevent aircraft misfueling. But with more than one million over-wing refuelings per year and misfueling a significant concern within the general aviation industry, Air bp doesn’t consider the "people barrier" in isolation to be adequate. Subsequently, it has been innovating with engineering barriers to help prevent misfueling altogether
We are now well into the implementation of deploying Airfield Automation across our network, to eliminate the one-in-a-million human error that can happen when refuelling an aircraft.
This pioneering technology includes the Safe2Go app – a cloud-based platform that consolidates all the data associated with Air bp’s refuelling operations.
The app is on a hand-held device, similar to an industrial-style mobile phone. It is also integrated so that it captures all the fuel volume readings from the meter on the vehicle and performs an enhanced three-way cross check, including scanning the decal, that need to be satisfied electronically before the refueling starts.
The app then electronically captures customer details, which are confirmed with an electronic signature from the pilot or airline. The device must be placed back in its holster inside the truck cab before refuelling can commence.
It is anticipated that the majority of Air bp’s 350 Airfield Automation locations will be fully operational by the end of 2020.
While the Safe2go app provides added protection when refuelling takes place, you can still expect the Air bp operator to check the decal and request confirmation of the fuel grade when an order is placed.
But remember if you don’t have a decal, just ask the operator or your local Air bp account holder to supply you with a new one and they’ll be happy to oblige!
This article was supplied to Australian Flying by Air bp.