After The Aircraft Accident - Is Your FBO Ready?

Credit: Phillips 66

Aircraft accidents caused by misfuelling don’t often occur, but when they do, they can be catastrophic, says Keith Clark, Phillips 66 senior quality control and technical rep. 

If an FBO fuels just 22 aircraft a day, in 100 days, that’s 2,200 aircraft, and in 1,000 days, that’s 22,000 aircraft.

If you’re a fixed base operator and there is an incident or accident, investigators will ask many questions about the events leading up to it to make sure everything was performed properly, Clark says.  Will your FBO be ready? 


First, make sure every employee -- from the line person to the front desk to the supervisor -- has been properly trained by outside trainers or in-house at the FBO.

“All that training out there, we just have to make sure that we’re doing it,” Clark says. “People get busy, and we’re short-handed. It’s not a time to skimp on training. We’ve got to make sure because we’ve got to be perfect every time we fuel an aircraft.”

Record Keeping

“We go through and do weekly checks, daily checks, monthly checks and quarterly, annual – we change out filtration on a yearly basis,” Clark says. “We receive fuel. All those things need to be documented because if there is an aircraft accident, somebody’s going to review that. Just like they review the training of each employee that’s involved and the training at the FBO; they’re going to go back and review that record keeping.”

Sometimes records are not well organized. That must change, Clark says.

“If an airplane went down today, could I document when I received the fuel, changed the filters by daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly? Is it organized? And depending on what country you’re in, it could be reviewed by different organizations out there. If you’re in the United States, the FAA and NTSB are going to be involved looking at your training, looking at your quality assurance and record keeping So keep in mind, could you recreate the situation?” He recommends keeping separate notebooks for each piece of equipment. 

Operating Procedures

Every FBO should have an operating procedures manual and ensure topics such as misfuelling prevention and receipt of fuel are covered.

“Make sure everybody understands them and understand why we do those because we have to be perfect every time,” he says.

“There’s no place for mistakes in aviation. And if there is a mistake made, we’ve got to learn from that mistake, so we don’t make that mistake again.” 


“You may hire a company to come in and change your filters, but you need to make sure you know what filters they put in. Don’t pay them and then have them walk off,” Clark says. “Make sure that they have that information on your filter vessel and in your quality assurance notebooks. It should have starting differential pressure. All those things will be reviewed when they look at an aircraft accident. They’re going to look at your sampling and testing procedures, your filtration testing, hoses and nozzles and other stuff. When we do an accident investigation one of the first questions we ask is, ‘How was the aircraft fueled,’ and we start backtracking from that point and looking at where was each step in the process.

It’s the same thing they’re going to do with pilots when they go back and review why that aircraft went down. If they rule out fuel, they’re going to continue to look at other issues.”

Equipment Maintenance

Make sure you have the proper equipment with the proper tanks and piping, and that equipment is up-to-date and regularly maintained, Clark advises.

Three companies supply aviation filters. Personnel must know which filters are in their systems, how they work and how differential pressure works. 

“Your dispensers, your refuelers, hoses and nozzles, nozzle screens – all that will be reviewed,” Clark says. “One of the things that we want to do is make sure that we’re doing that on that daily, weekly, monthly basis.” 


Don’t assume that when you need information, it’s there, Clark says. “What we recommend, at least on a quarterly basis if not monthly, is to go back and do self-audits.”

Make sure every employee has the necessary training on misfuelling, aircraft towing and other topics. 

“If there’s an aircraft accident, there’s going to be a lawyer for somebody looking at that and saying, ’Was this person trained properly?’ Clark says. “Do we have it documented? They’re going to look at your records. So do that self-audit. The worst time to find out you don’t have the information is when somebody’s looking for that information.”

He advises that someone different perform the self-audit each time as a cross-check. 

Phillips 66 began a campaign called “Save a Life, Verify Fuel Type” two years ago. The National Air Transportation website offers free training on how to prevent fueling mistakes at….


Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.