To Ask or Not To Ask?

What is the proper procedure for topping off a C90 King Air, an older over-wing Hawker, or how about an MU-2? While there are general procedures that are applicable to fueling (or servicing) all aircraft, each aircraft type may have specific procedures that need to be followed to safely complete the operation. Those who have fueled an MU-2 over-wing alone have probably experienced this when trying to recall maximum tip tank differential as one tank drops lower and lower when adding fuel!

This week I was astounded by a phone call I received from an FBO and the story they told me. A line service professional at this FBO asked a transient pilot of a turbojet aircraft to review the specific procedures for refueling his aircraft since he had not fueled this particular aircraft before. To the line technician’s surprise, the pilot was infuriated by this request and stated that the questioning was a a sign that this was a “dangerous operation.” The pilot even called the airport manager and complained about how the question was a sure indication that the FBO was not safely fueling aircraft.

Now, in the interest of being fair, I understand that there are often two sides to every story, but, that being said, it is no wonder why we are all still having to work so hard to instill proper safety culture across our industry.

From the Long-Ez to the G650, general aviation has hundreds if not thousands of aircraft types. Expecting a line service professional to know the specific safety procedures by heart for each one is not practical. If we accept this fact, then the appropriate attitude about safety demands that we instill in our team the notion that if they don’t know how to do something, they should ask! We must follow through with that commitment as well. Punishing someone for asking a question, whether formally or informally through attitudes, anger or even facial expressions, sends the message that “if you don’t know how to do something, figure it out, but don’t ask!”

The goal is to safely fuel the aircraft. And that involves everyone, from the pilot to the refueler to the customer service representative. If each person in that chain accepts their responsibility to ask when they are not completely clear of a task and to assist if needed, we will go a long way to eliminating safety concerns in aircraft refueling. Anything less than that places something else ahead of safety.

I hope the pilot that was involved in that situation runs across this blog. I would like to tell him that what happened on that ramp was not an indication of an unsafe situation but was a clear indication that this FBO valued safety and instilled the proper attitude in their line service professionals!

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