Viewpoint: Preventing Aircraft Misfuellings; Pilots Play Key Role
Fuel is essential for all modes of transportation from automobiles to semi-trucks, ski boats to cruise ships, they all need the correct type and amount of fuel to operate safely and efficiently. Aircraft are no different and the correct fuel is a must because there is no place to pull over in the sky.
Misfuellings can happen in many ways. It’s often a combination of human errors between the Pilot and FBO that lead to these issues. The key errors are lack of communication and verification, but there are other factors such as fatigue, stress, distraction, lack of knowledge, assertiveness, and awareness.
We also have similar-looking aircraft, which take different fuel types, or aircraft that have been converted from avgas to jet or avgas to diesel that can be mistaken and misfuelled. Simply mistaking jet fuel for an aircraft that takes avgas can put the pilot in immediate danger during takeoff. Fatal accidents are a common result due to aircraft misfuellings and no matter how reputable, responsible, and attentive FBOs are, accurate fueling starts and ends with you, the pilot.
Communication Is The Key
I recently presented at AirVenture 2021, and throughout the event, I had the opportunity to speak with a variety of pilots about their fueling habits and most of them admitted to their lack of communication with the FBOs.
A pilot needs to communicate with the FBO from the moment they arrive. Not only that, but the pilot must provide details with the FBO. A request to “top it off” won’t do. On your next fueling, remember these four touchpoints when speaking with the FBO:
1. Your aircraft tail number
2. Your aircraft fuel type
3. Your fuel order
4. Which tanks need fuel
In response, line people should repeat to the pilot and verify that all parties are on the same page. If an FBO does not repeat this information back, speak up to ensure they do so.
Verify The Transaction
Although communication is the key, it is also just the start. When you receive the receipt, review it before signing it. Take a closer look to confirm the fuel type is correct and the correct gallons were dispensed into your aircraft. In fact, most folks I spoke with at AirVenture hardly even looked at their receipt and were surprised that fuel type was on it. At Phillips 66 Aviation, we encourage pilots to take the time and verify their fuel transactions. Don’t assume the FBO correctly fueled your aircraft but verify it. If there was a mistake made the aircraft is still on the ground and no one has been hurt yet.
Always do your preflight to verify your aircraft is ready for flight. A pilot shared with me that another aircraft was mistaken for his because they were parked next to each other, and the wrong aircraft was fueled. During his preflight, he checked his fuel tanks and that is when he discovered his aircraft was never fueled. A near miss, but it was caught before he took off because he did his preflight.
It Starts With You
Fueling your aircraft is often viewed as simple as filling up a car, however, many aircraft misfuellings lead to catastrophic events. But there are easy ways to prevent misfuellings: engage in communication with the FBO, verify your receipt by reviewing your fuel order, checking for tail number, fuel type, how much was fueled, and other items, and verify your tank decal shows the fuel type and is in good shape.
An innovative tactic a pilot told me about was his idea of creating fueling business cards for his aircraft that included fuel type, tail number, fuel tank location and quantity of fuel. Combining something physical along with effective communication and verification goes another step in preventing a misfuelling.
Phillips 66 Aviation: Save A Life – Verify Fuel Type Campaign
As a part of Phillips 66’s Save a Life, Verify Fuel Type campaign, we’re raising awareness of the training that is available and to remind people to always communicate, always verify, and always do their preflight. It starts with the pilot communicating and it ends with the pilot verifying. It could save a life; that life could be yours. For more details on the program visit VerifyFuel.com or TrustedFuel.com.
Keith Clark joined Phillips 66 Aviation nearly 40 years ago and is based in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Clark serves as Quality Control & Technical Support Representative.