Refueling with passengers on board, embarking and disembarking on an aircraft is a relatively safe operation, however, the possibility of an accident is always there. Many instances of fuel spillage have occurred in the recent past which is a high-risk event and has the potential of damaging life and property. There are standard operating procedures established to mitigate the risk. Always follow your company’s SOP and local regulatory guidelines.
As it is evident that there are many causal factors for an accident or incident to occur, it becomes even more important for the people involved during the refueling operation to be situationally aware, maintain constant communication and follow their SOP’s.
Recent data shows, that there have been numerous instances where:
- The cockpit has not been manned by the engineers or the flight crew.
- Miscommunication between Engineers and Cabin Crew regarding the commencement of refueling.
A minimum cabin crew complement must be present on board and prepared for immediate emergency evacuation.
Fueling/De-fueling activity when passengers are embarking, onboard or disembarking, shall only commence when an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer or at least one flight crew member is present in the flight deck responsible for supervision. Senior cabin crew (SCC) shall also notify the cockpit crew, when onboard.
In case of absence of flight crew members, prior to refueling, AME/Technician will notify the ramp agent and the nearest cabin crew personally who in turn shall notify the senior cabin crew (SCC). The SCC shall pass the information to all cabin crew, thereafter. The SCC shall also notify the cockpit crew, when onboard.
A qualified person must remain at a specified location (Ramp area) during the refueling process with passengers on board. This person must handle emergency procedures concerning fire protection and firefighting, handle communication and in and direct an evacuation.
Cabin crew shall warn/alert passengers through an inflight announcement by the Senior Cabin crew (SCC) that refueling will take place.
Manning of the Flight Deck is mandatory while Fueling/De-fueling activity is taking place when passengers are embarking, onboard, or disembarking. This activity shall only commence when an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) or at least one of the Flight Crew members is present in the flight deck who will be responsible for the supervision of the Fueling/De-fueling activity.
The qualified personnel in the flight deck who is supervising the activity shall inform the Senior Cabin Crew (SCC) of the beginning and end of fueling/de-fueling. Senior Cabin Crew (SCC) shall inform the zone in-charge of the commencement of refueling.
In order to ensure that crew members receive prompt notification of a situation threatening safety such as a major fuel spillage or fire.
Two-way communication should be established between the ground crew supervising the refueling and the qualified personnel on-board the aircraft. This communication must remain available by the aircraft inter-communication system or any other suitable means.
Refueling must NOT commence with passengers on board the aircraft unless the cockpit is manned by the Flight crew or Certified Engineer.
When the cockpit is manned by a certified engineer, the certifying engineer must ensure seat belt signs are OFF and NO Smoking signs are ON and cabin crew is informed about commencement and completion of refueling.
We must consider the associated risks during the refueling process, and remember to follow the company SOP, work together as a team and effectively communicate within the department to ensure a safe process.
“When people work together, they create a safe work environment”