Fuel is of fundamental importance to an airport, so ensuring reliable delivery and refuelling, with highly competent personnel, is paramount. Justin Walker, technical director at Air BP, explains how the company's always-available technical teams can supply and support airports in their operations.
For airports, the volume growth in aviation is creating a potential new risk as airport fuel systems are becoming stretched to meet increased demand. At the same time, airlines, and particularly the low-cost carriers, want more-efficient turnarounds. There have already been instances of fuel rationing because of disruptions in the supply chain, caused by complex interdependencies, in places like Johannesburg, San Diego and Nice. To guarantee a reliable delivery of fuel in these circumstances, all parts of the fuel system need to be maintained and, if needed, expanded to operate at increased volumes, from storage capacity to hydrants. Any disruption to an airport's ability to refuel aircraft can disable an airport's operations; failure to deliver effectively shuts it down.
An airport operator needs to be able to rely on its fuel supplier to help manage risks such as these, which can affect the airport's operations and reputation. To provide this level of support, the fuel supplier has to have the technical experience and expertise to understand what can go wrong and where, and what preventative controls can be put in place. A failure in the fuel system that lasts for even a few hours will cause extensive disruption at an airport - therefore, the operator should be able to call on expert help to troubleshoot the problem.
For example, Air BP Technical Services has expert technical teams available 24/7 that are able to respond to incidents in any of the 50 countries in which Air BP operates. As well as testing the fuel, Air BP teams can audit the airport and develop an improvement plan. It also is not uncommon for the teams to provide technical support to airlines in instances where an aircraft has taken on fuel of an inconsistent quality and experienced problems with its fuel system.
These local teams can draw on the collective expertise of a global company with more than 85 years' experience in the aviation industry. In 1927, Air BP refuelled the first transatlantic flight and, in the 1930s, created the first aviation fuel services in Dubai; more recently, it designed the fuel depot and hydrant for London Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5.
Building on this heritage, Air BP Technical Services can support customers with a complete aviation fuel consultancy service. This embraces design, build, maintenance, and management and operation of fuel facilities; setting and maintaining standards; audits and inspections; essential technical documentation; product quality and operational support; and advising on carbon footprint reduction in fuel operations.
There are various factors for airport operators to consider when selecting a fuel supplier. One is the level of innovation and investment in technology to ensure the plant and equipment are of the highest standards in terms of efficiency, integrity and safety. Another is how they manage and staff the fuel facility to fit their business model and resources. While many airports use their own staff to operate the facility, others may opt to use staff from a third party, contract a fuel supplier, or manage and operate the fuel facility as a joint venture. Of the more than 700 airports around the world where Air BP is represented, 300 are operated directly.
Whichever arrangement the airport operator chooses, it will need to be assured that fuelling staff are trained to the highest industry standards and equipped with the right processes to operate a safe and reliable aviation fuelling service. Refuelling an aircraft is often performed by one person working unsupervised, so verified competency-based training is critical to risk management.
Comprehensive training suites have been developed by Air BP Technical Services, based around real scenarios, in which barriers are identified to prevent these incidents occurring and to control the consequences if they do. The training not only explains what operators need to do to comply with safety and best practice standards, but also how they need to do it and why it is important.
Decades of experience of operating in different cultures and languages has demonstrated the importance of developing bespoke training for customers, taking into account these differences. Air BP has strong partnerships around the world with national oil companies and has also worked in post-conflict areas such as Albania, Kosovo, East Timor, Lebanon and Iraq to rebuild infrastructure and supply chains, and bring them up to international standards. Air BP has expertise in working with airports and authorities in developing high-growth markets to establish and expand airport facilities and supply chains.
In choosing a fuel supplier, airport operators need a partner that can help them protect their operations and manage risks. They also need one that can innovate and help them expand as aviation continues to grow.