Challenges and complexities of the techniques used were highlighted at IATA’s Aviation Fuel Forum in November.

By Graham Newton

The safe and efficient fueling of aircraft is at the heart of the aviation fuel sector. Hydrant systems do an excellent job the vast majority of the time, but they are complex and challenges persist.

Much of hydrant work is on an existing system at an existing airport. It is therefore necessary to minimize the airport operational impact, such as the closure of a taxiway.

At Geneva International Airport, for example, a mobile crane, directional drilling, and micro-tunneling all helped when it extended its fueling network. Constant safety assessments—such as jet blast—underpinned these efforts.

Rather than specifics, however, it is an overall mindset that needs to change, according to John Pitts of eJet International. Speaking at IATA’s recent Aviation Fuel Forum in New Orleans, Pitt warned that installing or extending hydrant systems is “not something for inexperienced parties.”

Installing or extending hydrant systems is not something for inexperienced parties

Problems he identified include a temptation to play safe and oversize. This not only means extra cost but also can impact on a hydrant’s self-cleaning ability and cause efficiency issues. Supervision during construction, pressure tests, and contractual difficulties that obscure lines of responsibility are additional concerns.

Best practice for work on a hydrant system starts with planning early. All project delivery options come with pros and cons. Engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contracts are one possibility. These types of contract are divisible into various components and so can keep a client involved.

Turnkey projects where the owner is effectively just handed the keys once the project is complete, can be less successful.

It is essential not to go with the lowest price option and competence must be evaluated carefully. Moreover, any new hydrant system or hydrant system extension must be operable, maintainable, and extendable. In other words, the design must account for the full life cycle of the system.

Other considerations include schedule, milestones, and diligent inspections that can quickly ascertain any obstacles to progress.

Pitt added that having the right people on hand is vital too. “Always procure the best expertise,” he said.