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Guest: Aviation Training Academy

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Dave Ware, the co-founder of Aviation Training Academy, joins us as our guest on this episode. As a seasoned expert, Dave takes us behind the scenes of an industry where precision matters and strict adherence to aviation fuel and safety standards is necessary. Tune in as we address fuel handling, compliance, and innovative solutions, such as advanced fuel monitoring systems and fuel efficiency software that drive regulatory compliance within the aviation sector. Dave discusses the essential role of hands-on training and shares invaluable resources for keeping pace with evolving regulations. In this episode, you will hear all about the intricacies of fuel management in the aviation sector.

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Shannon (Host)

All right, good morning. Welcome to Tank Talk. This is season two, and I have a special guest today from Aviation Training Academy. It's Dave Ware. We have worked with Dave on a couple of different projects related to the ATA 103 standard. His firm, Aviation Training Academy, provides ATA 103 training. They do a whole bunch of other stuff, and Dave, I'm so excited to have you here to talk about ATA 103 today. Welcome.

David (Guest)

Well, thank you all very much for having us. It's a pleasure and an honor to be on. It's my very first podcast.

Shannon (Host)

You know we hear that a lot. I think our industry is being dragged into the future, kicking and screaming.

David (Guest)

That's okay, that's okay.

Shannon (Host)

Yeah. So, Dave, I've known you for a while. Please introduce yourself to our audience so they can get to know you too, and if you would like to talk about how you got to where you are give us a brief overview of Aviation Training Academy as well.

David (Guest)

Sure, where do you start? So I mean, I got my start in 1987 with the aviation arm of BP, British Petroleum, and the AirBP side of things. I answered an ad in the newspaper or a headhunter as a secretary for AirBP. That was back when you could say secretary, and it meant something from that side of things instead of an administrative assistant or something like that. So really, but started working there and then shortly after that, after about a year and a half in that position, the young lady that was working the operations side of things decided to become a full-time mom, and that position opened, and I became the scheduler for all the aviation fuels west of the Rocky Mountains so that also included Alaska and Hawaii and scheduled everything from transport trucks to the pipeline, to the rail, to the barges, the large vessels of product coming across the globe. And obviously, when you're dealing with big oil and major oil companies, you're always at risk of going through some form of separation. I guess, if you will, I made it through two of those separation packages, and I didn't make it through the third one. In 1994, I was quote-unquote involuntarily separated, and they said it's time for you to go on and do something else.


So I did, and I started working for a petroleum inspection company and was the inspection manager for there, for seven inspectors that went out and did all the gauging and all that type of thing and measuring of the pipelines and tank calibrations. You know, the vessel and barge gauging and all that type of thing, and we talk about this business being a 24-hour business. You don't realize what a 24-hour business is until you're actually in a 24-hour business where the phone rang constantly, it doesn't matter what time of day or night. So, in order to save my home life, I left there and started working for a petroleum transport company where they only transported actually aviation fuels, just the AvGas and the jet fuel, and there were four terminals one in Seattle, Washington, one in Bellingham Washington, one in Los Angeles and one in San Diego, California, and there was at one time at our highest peak we had about 110 drivers. So that was an interesting task, and ultimately, that company decided to pull out because of certain issues regarding union workers and that type of thing. So I then moved over to start working for an aviation fuel supplier, and after 10 years of that, that company, or actually, I think it was only two years of that that company merged and did a joint venture with none other than AirBP.


So I came full circle, and I was their operations manager for the rest of my tenure there, and as part of that task, we had seven inspectors that would go out to the airports and perform the safety and qualifying audits for all of the branded dealers that the company had, as well as all the terminals that they pulled from for the transport trucks and the pipelines and as well as the transportation side of it. In addition to that, I was part of the training team. So that's where I got a little bit of the start of standing up in front of people and talking, and you'll probably realize that at the end of this podcast, wow, this guy really likes to talk!

Shannon (Host)


That's why we invited you, Dave. Come on now.

David (Guest)


So, during the latter part of that tenure there, we could see where the company was headed. one of my current business partners and I were on the training team, and we could see where the budget was going with regard to the training and we decided it was time for us to do this on our own. In 2012, I, with Mr Walter Chartrand and Deborah Cavalcante, all came together and said it was time for us to open up Aviation Training Academy and together between us for these 12 years, I mean, we've got the experience in all aspects of airport operations and soft skill training over 120 years of experience just between the three of us. So I learn something new every day, every place I visit, and meet new people. It's a testament to how close-knit of an industry that we work in and how passionate the people who work in it want to be because, obviously, you're dealing with airplanes, and the industry motto is you can't pull over at 20,000 feet.

Shannon (Host)


No, you can't, and it is a tight-knit community, especially in Alaska. Alaska flies to some of the strangest places on earth and the strangest conditions on earth.

David (Guest)


In addition to being unable to pull over at 20,000 feet, there may not be a runway available where you need to pull over 100% and we spend quite a bit of time every year up in Alaska doing what we do and see that on a regular basis. It's not necessarily done in the same way, but the ideas and the outcome, hopefully, are always the same. It was the best decision I ever made, and I consider both my partners, you know, not only business partners but dear friends, and they would do anything for me and vice versa, so it's been a great deal.

Shannon (Host)


Yep, if you were meant to be an entrepreneur, it feels really great when you finally get there. Yeah, places. Yeah, yeah. So your career arc. You gained a ton of experience and then channeled that into a partnership. Aviation Training Academy does training, audits, and then you guys have done some work with safety. Is that right?

David (Guest)


Yeah, so it might be like any type of standard. As time changes, you know, the fuel changes, filtration changes, and aircraft changes all take place. Obviously, the industry has to change with that as well, and one of those changes in the last few years talked about ensuring that the fueling entity or the fueling operation had an SMS program, which is a safety management program. In a nutshell, everybody has standard operating procedures or procedures for how they do a task, as long as you do the task the way the procedure is written. That's the check and balance. If, for some reason, though, I have the standard operating procedure written one way, but I do the task a different way, either the safety management system or standard operating procedure has to change, or how you do the task has to change so that they mirror one another. So that's, in essence, a safety management system program. In addition, they're looking for A-103 in a recent update that came out where they want to make sure that people have some form of human factors trained.


So often when incidents take place, there's some form of a root cause analysis that's performed, especially if there's an aircraft incident, you know, the NTSB comes out and does their investigation, and a year and a half or two years later, they come out with the results of that investigation. Well, performing a risk review or a risk analysis after the fact and what took place, type of thing, they determine that there are 12 or 13 different human factors that are always in place, that are always that one of those 12 items or one of those 12 areas came into the cause of that incident or that accident. So having an awareness level program for human factors is key, and quite frankly, that's one of the FAA's requirements. For instance, the aircraft maintenance personnel every year have to go through eight hours of training that dovetail around human factors, and that's literally the reason they have to go through that in order for them to keep their maintenance license. So it's kind of changing and the world obviously is changing and so isn't the training and the requirements and the standards.

Shannon (Host)


I'm glad to see it changing. I think regulations are affecting the ATA 103 and the SMS requirements as well because we, on our end, from the regulatory perspective, we know that the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act have brought a lot of changes to how things are stored, how things are maintained, and the recordkeeping for what you guys are doing under the ATA 103 dovetails along with some of the EPA and state and local requirements too, and so they all interact together in this ecosystem. This is why I'm glad you came today, because I think in the aviation industry, there's a focus on ATA 103 or a focus on environmental regulations, but they aren't seeing the connection between the two, and we know they're connected.

David (Guest)


Absolutely. And I mean, after meeting you all up there, I got to tell you I envy your knowledge of what you have to deal with. I can help you write some board of stormwater plan or something like that, but gosh almighty, you guys at least know the ins and outs of it without even knowing. I've been blinking an eye, and I envy that. So good on you.

Shannon (Host)


I think both of us benefit from having a knowledge of the operations. It's very easy to write a permit if you don't know how people actually work. But suppose you are knowledgeable about how people are literally and physically moving the product from all the different stages. In that case, it's a harder permit to write because you're trying to write that standard operating procedure to meet the regulations and also what people are doing in the field. I do feel there's a lot of room for improvement, from consultants and trainers to create trainings and permits that incorporate the human factor, that say, okay, I can write this all day long to be this way, but if the guy has to stand on top of a truck for three hours in a rainstorm to accomplish it, no human is going to enjoy that.


They're going to find shortcuts around it, and so yeah, so so I'm really glad you're here today, and I think we should talk about ATA 103 because that's the genesis. You said it's an industry standard, it's part of the fabric of operating at every major airport in the nation, and probably internationally too, I have a feeling. So could you give us like a broad overview of ATA-103 for people who are not familiar with that standard?

David (Guest)


Yeah, and actually, it's interesting that the ATA-103 is more of a US standard and, you know, obviously, the 50 states. So, if you go to Canada, they have different standards. If you go to Mexico or Europe or, you know, the Middle East, they have a different standard as well. However, it still dovetails all around the same. I mean, I ask the question. Usually, at every type of fuel handling class that we have, I ask the question, do they handle fuel differently in other parts of the world? And at most, everybody says, oh yeah, absolutely well, they really don't.


They sump a filter vessel under pressure. They make sure they do it every day. They sump, they drain, they test, they perform gravities or densities or millipores. I mean, it's all done in the same. It might be different frequencies, but the tests and what they're looking for are all the same. It's just a matter of how the interpretation, and in this case, at-103 is the US guideline. So yeah, to answer the question and kind of give you an idea of what it's about, I mean, so the Airlines for America, and their little acronym is A, the number four, and A it's a US airline members that gather together that advocate on behalf of the American airline industry for safety, customer service, environmental responsibility.


Back in 1986, the industry realized that there was a gap in their expectations and, specifically, how the fueling agents around us managed and maintained the quality of that aviation fuel. So ATA and one of the airlines for america at the time came out, came out with this industry standard. Over the years there's been gosh almighty, maybe probably 10 or 15, probably closer to 15 different updates on it and I'm surprised, honestly, Dave, that it's not older '86.


Well, you and I are of an age, but 86 seems really recent to me for standard fueling practices for yeah exactly but; interestingly enough, yeah, it doesn't seem like that long ago, but the changes that have taken place over the years have, in some cases, been fairly dramatic. But recently, more recently, since 2017, they've really gotten everything figured out, and it's more just kind of, I guess, tweaking it a little bit. Obviously, there's some as the industry is impressive, I guess, if you will, a more technological type of filtration and testing, and they're trying to take a lot of the human element out of it. But when everything is all said and done, you're still dealing with people and that's why those human factors, requirements and recommendations are out there. I mean, I don't really see in my future anyway, you know, aircraft being fueled automatically by themselves, without somebody hooking up a hose from something to something.

Shannon (Host)


Maybe in another 50 years. I'm imagining like dairy cows going through and getting hooked up to the milking machine. I have a few airlines that may have something similar someday. But so the ATA-103 standard is. It's a set of guidelines for how to store and manage fuel to ensure fuel quality. Correct, it's all about fuel quality.

David (Guest)


Correct. In essence, it's really it's. The purpose of it is to simply provide a guideline on what's expected, on how to manage and maintain the quality of the fuel to, in essence, because it was managed or it's managed by the commercial airline industry. They're looking at the commercial flying public, and the caveat is that since it's considered an aviation standard, it's considered the Bible when it comes to any kind of aviation industry. So it's especially if something bad happens, because unfortunately, we're probably three times a year, on average about three times a year, we get asked in a phone call from an attorney, and we get called in to be expert witnesses on certain cases which obviously, most of the time are involving money and people's lives.


And that's just, and it's just a sad part of the door, what we've chosen to do so money, lives, and insurance companies, yep yep, and if you don't do it right, it's going to cost you money, and typically, it's going to get you into a court of law. Unfortunately, like you said, we're dealing with people's lives.

Shannon (Host)


In the background of the aviation industry and, we're primarily operating in Alaska and Washington State. But what we see ATA 103 coming into play is in contracts between commercial airlines and fuel providers that are local. They have local facilities, and then we see enforcement, either coming from the commercial airline auditing their vendors or, like you said, an investigation occurs, and they've got all this record keeping that they're supposed to be doing, and these records can feed into the. This obviously wasn't part of the problem, so it can be a defensive piece of recordkeeping for our clients and the vendors. Could you talk a little bit about who uses ATA-103 specifically, what parts of the aviation infrastructure use ATA-103, and how they both look at the recordkeeping that comes out of it?



Yeah, really, anyone who's fueling an aircraft should follow them. I mean, again, we get a lot of questions or we get a lot of comments when we come out and start doing some training or even an audit or a quick inspection or something like that, and say, well, we don't fuel airlines, so we're not abide by that guideline. You go back to, well if something bad happens. But, truthfully, whoever uses, whoever fuels an aircraft should be using these. I mean, they're, in essence, minimum standards for everything from the infrastructure it could be from anybody that stores, transports, flows, fuel filters, fuel pumps, fuel, and I'm talking about aviation fuel within that airport operating area.


So if you're outside of that airport operating area in other words, you're a petroleum terminal that supplies the airport there's a bit of different criteria and a different standard that those entities would ultimately end up having to go by. But the requirements on sampling and testing and that type of thing are all the same. It's just a frequency-type thing. But they're also dealing with much, much higher and larger volumes and typically they're measuring these volumes and barrels, not gallons what we do with at the airport.

Shannon (Host)


Or pounds, that one always throws me for a loop, or pounds, I'm like pounds, oh okay. So pretty much, if we're at an airport, there are ATA forms, and they cover everything from the tanks themselves, and these are tanks that are directly supplying aircraft with fuel, or they are located at an airport, and they are being drawn down from to supply aircraft. So if you're using a refueler truck and you're pulling up to this tank and then you take the truck to the aircraft, both the truck and the tank are subject to these ATA-103 forms, and then there's also hydrant system and piping that are connecting all of these pieces. Those are subject to ATA 103 as well, correct?

David (Guest)


Correct, correct.

Shannon (Host)


Okay. So, the ATA 103 standard is amazing. It provides these forms: what are we checking? What does ATA 103 want to make sure that we do? I've got a few examples. I know fuel quality we've talked about. So what are they looking for with fuel quality, for example?



Yeah, it's interesting and that's a great question. So basically, what they're looking for is abnormalities. So when that product is manufactured and refined at the refinery it creates to start off with, but when it comes out of the refinery distillation tower, they do a refinery certificate of quality. They create what we call the birth certificate of the fuel. It moves from that refinery we'll call it the rundown tank to a shipping tank where they create what's called a certificate of analysis. That is then what moves down either the pipeline or the barge or the vessel or the truck to the airport or a breakout storage.


So every time that product moves, we need to verify the product quality of that, that fuel, and that there's in the and the lack of contamination. That's what this document does is verify that from the previous time that we did that particular test, that nothing has happened to the fuel and it's still within the standard in which we were expecting. So, for example, it could be. You know the frequency of the tests or the sampling. I mean we need to sample and sump the tanks, the refueler tanks filters every day. So the idea is we're going to rate that sample based on a scale and we're looking for any kind of solids and moisture and there's a grading scale based on that. And if, for today, in a good sample, the best sample we would look for is a 1A, meaning one it's free of any kind of solid contaminants, and A means it's free of any kind of visible moisture.

Shannon (Host)


And then, just for the point, for our listeners that are not as aviation minded as you and I, moisture is just water. Water in the fuel.

David (Guest)


Correct. Correct, and actually, the description of water. There's a couple of different types of descriptions. One is entrained water or suspended water, and that's the water that hasn't actually fallen out of solution. So, for example, if I were to look into a sample jar or a white bucket and I couldn't see clearly to the bottom of the sample bucket or that clear glass jar, that could be a sign of suspended water or water that hasn't fallen out of solution. So, we typically will call that entrained water or suspended water. And then there's water that has actually coalesced, meaning come together in large enough droplets where it's heavier than the fuel, and it falls to the bottom of the bucket where I can clearly see a difference in the water versus where the fuel is. So there's a distinct segregation between those two. That's from the moisture side. Yeah, there are five grades of moisture level, and we always want to make sure that from the visible eye, the naked eye, we don't see any type of moisture, regardless of whether it's suspended or free.

Shannon (Host)


So let's talk about the other side of this the sediment and anything particulates. What shows up on that side?

David (Guest)


The industry really likes us to filter for water and particulates every time the product is moved. So, for example, if I move the product from my tank farm to the refueling vehicle, it's filtered for water and particulate vehicles. It's filtered for water and particulates the typical filtration. It removes dirt and will separate out moisture down to one micron. A lot of people don't know what a micron is. A micron is basically a millionth of a meter, so it's really really small. And to give that an idea in layman's terms, typically your vision, the naked eye, can see to about 40 micron. So your human hair follicle is about 70 micron.


So we're filtering fuel to the point where you should not be able to see the particulate that's in that fuel. If I start seeing particulates in my fuel, I need to start thinking, okay, where is this particulate coming from? And that's really and truly what. When we started talking about, you know, the ATA-103 and what does it do and what are they looking for? And we spoke about we're looking for abnormalities. Well, that could be potentially an abnormality. We just got to figure out where that contamination is coming from.

Shannon (Host)


What part of our system broke down to allow this.

David (Guest)


What part of our system broke down and it could be something simply as environmental. I mean, a lot of the points where these samples and sumps are drawn are right out in the elements and obviously, as you know anybody that you know out in the elements in Alaska you have a lot of dirt and soil and salt and snow and rain and elements like that that can get on the actual fittings and they're aluminum fittings and aluminum is an extremely porous material, so those dirt particles can get inside that and that's what you're ultimately seeing. You can't, you can't anticipate and you can't say okay, yeah, well, that that that contamination is coming from that porous metal, aluminum. So I'm not going to continue to sump until I've got a clear sample.

Shannon (Host)


No, we've got to truly figure out where it's actually coming from you've got to check the whole system all the way back, so let me test my knowledge here. So I think particulates something physical. They can be like flakes of rust, they can be sediment that's blown into the vent of a tank and settled to the bottom of the tank. They can be little particulates that have come out from the hose or any point along the distribution system or somehow forced through the filtration system, or even, like you said, collected on the nozzle. But they can also be biological, right? There can be microbes or algae in this. So let's talk about algae for a minute, because I know, at least in rural Alaska, that's a big concern it's my favorite subject I know you love it so much yeah.

David (Guest)


So interestingly enough, I mean, and the idea behind it is so you get down to the grassroots of it and there are microbes, microbial infestation, in the air that we breathe. So it's not until it comes in contact with a hydrocarbon. The hydrocarbon being the fuel is when it really starts to manifest. Typically where we see it is in storage tank, when operators don't efficiently sump the tank to obtain a true representative sample of the fuel in the tank. And typically, when you sump the tank, you're sumping it out of the bottom, the low point of the tank, because of course the water is going to be heavier than the fuel. So that's, in essence, where the microbes are going to live. So the microbes live in in the water phase and where that water phase meets the hydrocarbon or the fuel they feed, those microbes feed off of the hydrocarbon. Their waste byproduct is sulfur. So so when we start mixing water and sulfur, we create sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid then begins to start to manifest itself into basically putting holes and pits in the storage tanks.

Shannon (Host)


From the tank all the way to distribution. Yep.

David (Guest)


Absolutely, and it's extremely difficult to get rid of it. These microbes can double their size every 20 minutes, so a little problem can become a big problem really really fast. But the one common thing they have to have is moisture. So that's why the industry spends so much time making sure that we get rid of the water, making sure we sump for the water, get the water out, making sure that we filter for the water and get it out.



Could we talk about some best practices for water sumping? Because I know in my experience we've seen some water draw setups that are not compliant, like the water draw isn't at the lowest point of the tank anymore, or it's an inch off the bottom of the tank and you can have up to an inch of water in your tank. So I do realize that there are some physical constraints and if you're listening to this right now and you think that that's something that's wrong with your tank and why you keep getting microbes in it, get a good engineer and a good repair contractor and fix it.


But other than that, assuming that the equipment inside the tank is going to physically withdraw the water, what are some like best practices around water draw management? ATA says every day, every day. But we have intermittent service in a lot of rural Alaska where you might only have aircraft once every few days. So what does ATA say about water draws and how should we implement that all over?

David (Guest)


Yeah, yeah, I mean without question, and I always like to say. We always like to say that we live in the real world yeah, there's some places, small locations, that don't have a lot of activity on a regular basis, especially on a daily basis, and they may only be manned Monday through Friday or something like that, and maybe only daylight hours. They're not a 24-hour operation. We understand that. The industry says yeah, I mean, ATA103 says daily sumps of the tank, the refueling tank, the filters, every sump, every day. You got to keep in mind that this standard was written for a major airport or an airport that has commercial service, so those types of airports are theoretically going to be open the majority of the day, if not 24 hours, if they're very close to that, but at least every day enough to perform this task or those tasks.

Shannon (Host)


And millions of gallons of throughput, not 150 gallons of throughput or 400.



So we take those smaller operations and say, look, okay, here's the deal. You know, if you've got your activity Monday through Friday, do the tasks Monday through Friday. If you have an, a fueling operation or a fueling opportunity that you actually have to go fuel an aircraft and a lot of the places they're a call out the type of thing and before, the key thing is, before you fuel that aircraft from perform those tasks, perform those daily tasks to ensure that refueling vehicle or your you know, your self-serve island or whatever the case may be has gone through that and not only done the task but documented it, because we all know that if, yes, you don't do the task, and you know if you do the task and you don't, or if you do the task and you don't write it down, it didn't happen.

Shannon (Host)


From a corporate level, if you are responsible for a fueling program at a commercial airport, regardless of the volume that you are throughput in your facility that those records become really critical when there are things like investigations and contract negotiations, because having those records show that your crew is doing it and it's part of the fuel handoff. You're saying I delivered a quality product and here's how I know. I know that it didn't have these contaminations because I did the check. Here's my documentation. Here's my milliport sample. Like all of those things are part of a program that creates a good handoff when you give it to the commercial entity.



Absolutely, and I've seen, unfortunately, in my 30 plus however many years, I don't know, I didn't do the math from 1987, but we see it so often. As you know, we did the task and well, it's not written down well, and I know I did it. But the idea is that if something bad happens and we'll, we'll take everybody to that part of it. If something bad happens, one of the first things that that, especially from an aircraft perspective, if there's an accident or incident, the first thing that the investigators are going to do is going to find out where that aircraft field lasts. And then they're going to come visit and they're going to ask you for your everything, for your training records, to your q records, and they're going to go through them and if those if they're, they're incomplete or they're inconsistent or there's gaps and no documentation and like, for example, we'll even say if you don't use the equipment, don't just leave it blank. There's a little code at the bottom that says NU, meaning not used, use that. That's the best way to go, because that tells you that you actually didn't do the task, because the equipment didn't get used that day.


So if the investigators come and they see that your training records are lax and there's really nothing there.


And you look at your QC records and they're just kind of disheveled and not in any kind of organization. They're going to make themselves at home, they're going to spend some time at your location and that's not a very good time, especially when they start looking at samples coming out of your facility if they're not acceptable. But if your training records are in order and your quality control records are in order and it's clear that the person and the persons that are doing the tests and the QC checks it's going to be a cursory inspection because they pretty much have an idea of what took place before they got over there just from some of the reports they get, especially with you know you've got video of everybody's looking at you all the time, so the videos and the witnesses, that type of thing, and so if you've got your QC records and training records in order, it's going to be a cursory inspection. Say thanks for the time, appreciate your help, we'll move forward. But if it's not, it's not fun. We've been involved.

Shannon (Host)


No, we've gotten called in to assist with recovery after an investigation like that. They were dinged pretty severely for lack of records and we were able to assist. But what I like about your company, Dave, is I have other podcast episodes where we talk about the three things that make recordkeeping successful. One is context, understanding why you're doing something and what the consequences will be if you don't do something. And your firm's really good about providing the context in plain English and saying, just like you said, if you don't use it, write down NU and make sure your butt's covered and you know all the things. Then we also talk about having the right forms and making sure that you've got a good list of what they're supposed to be doing and that they're trained on how to do them. And then the last piece is accountability that they know they're supposed to do it and their supervisor is checking and making sure that it's getting done. And if you have all three of those things, record keeping does really well. But I'm sure you find if one of those pieces is missing, if they don't understand what they're doing or lack the training, the forms can be filled out perfectly every time, but they're pencil whipped. There's nothing good in there, it's usable. And if you have the training and the forms but nobody's checking that they get done, one of those human factors shows up and all of those things play into how records get produced and used and hopefully our listeners will tie those two together that you can't just pay for a training and have it go. You've got to have a training and the right forms in place and accountability. But firms like ours help bolster up maybe where you're weak in that three-legged stool scenario.


So 103, let's talk about the forms, because it's my favorite. There's so many. We actually got a listener question about this, Dave, so I'm really glad you're here. They wanted to know what the difference between a tank and a refueler was in relation to the 103 forms, because there's a lot of forms for tanks and there's a lot of forms for refuelers. It's a little difficult in context because a lot of people call fuel trucks tanker trucks or tank trucks. So could you go over what a refueler is and what a tank is in the eyes of ATA 103? I think that'll help.

David (Guest)


Yeah, yeah, absolutely, absolutely. When they're talking about a storage tank or a tank, they're talking about literally the storage tank where the fuel is stored in the larger quantities, and they started all the way back to the refinery. Those are the storage tanks where the fuel is held and, in response to ATA-103, it's where the product is held at the airport. So from there the product is moved or pumped from those storage tanks and it could be either via pipeline or transport truck or other means to the airport, and then the airport then goes from their tankage into we call them refueling vehicles, some people just call them refuelers, but other people call the person that's actually doing the refueling refueler.


Yes, so we yeah, you know there's several different terminology. You know names that those personnel are called. But so the tankage, the storage tank, is where the product is held, as in a stationary tank. The refueling vehicle, however, is the mechanism where it's a chassis mounted tank on a refueling vehicle that takes the product from the storage tank at the airport to the airplane itself.

Shannon (Host)


So, Dave, there are a variety of forms with 103. Could you just give us a brief overview of what they're checking with these forms? There are kind of sections within the forms. We just talked about the refuelers, so there's a section of forms specific to the refuelers themselves, and there are sections for the storage tank. Are there any other sections?

David (Guest)


So if your location has hydrant so that hydrant system would basically be, you'd have a storage tank and sometimes it could be off the airport operating area, could be off in a little bit of a satellite location where the, the pipeline, is underneath the ground and it goes all the way literally to the, the gate where the aircraft is loading and unloading passengers and and baggage. So literally there's a fitting underneath the ground where a lid is lifted up, and what's pulled up is what they call a hydrant truck, and the hydrant, yeah. Yeah, that's all it is. So all that hydrant truck is there.


That's just the transition between the hydrant pit and the aircraft. So it's got, you know, hose, it's got a filter, it's got you know all the different apparatus you have. But the pressure comes from the pumps on the hydrant system. So the hydrant truck, doesn't have any pumping to it. It's got the meter, fire extinguishers, dead man, and all that type of thing. But that's just the transition between the hydrant pit and the actual aircraft itself. So there's a section on that, there's a section, obviously, on the tankage, there's a section on the refueling vehicle and there's also a section talking about how to receive the load of fuel from the highway road transport carrier.

Shannon (Host)


In Alaska, that's often a barge. It can also be from the road system or exempt from that.

David (Guest)


Yeah, so the barges are typically going to go into an over-the-road truck or breakout storage, that type of thing. So that would be under a different standard. Actually, because that's off airport, that's going to be under a different standard and typically that's going to be what's called API, so the American Petroleum Institute standard 1595, so API 1595. And again, handling aviation fuels off airport at these petroleum terminals. Again they do the same stuff, they do the testing, they do the millipores, they do the testing, but it's done on a much, much higher level. In other words, it's a lot higher volume. So instead of pulling a sample out of a 20,000-gallon storage tank and getting a gallon and a half to look if there's any contaminants, these guys are hauling off in some cases one or 200 gallons just to check the bottom of the tank. So that's how large it is. Those are the additional checks for what ATA has in there.

Shannon (Host)


Okay, thank you for that overview. And then when you're looking at the ATA-103 forms, when you purchase the standard and you get that Excel sheet with all of the things in it, you're only required to do the ones that apply to your facility, correct? If you don't have a hydrant system, you don't need to do the hydrant forms.

David (Guest)


Correct, 100% correct. Yes.

Shannon (Host)


But most of us have storage tanks and refuelers and those do need to be performed.  

Shannon (Host)

One of the things we get asked to do a lot is if they show up and they say look at all these forms, do we have to do them all? The answer is yes. If you are fueling aircraft at an airport, you do, and it's usually tied to the contract. For most of our clients, they've got a contract with a commercial air carrier and that's one of the requirements. Some, like Alaska Airlines, have their own system that incorporates ATA 103, but has more stuff on top.

David (Guest)


You know, one of the things that we pass on to the people that attend our training and the stuff we go out and do is the hardest thing that you're going to have to do is when you take a sample of the fuel that you've looked at every day for the past 30 days and you get the same result. It's extremely difficult to you know when you rate the sample. There's no contamination in this. There was no contamination in it yesterday. There was no contamination in it yesterday. There was no contamination in it two days ago, and so on and so on. That's the hardest thing to do. But what happens if it's not? What happens if it's not perfect? What happens if there's something in it? What do I do? Do I completely shut the airport down? What do I do? And that's where these tasks come in. To say so again, you're just looking for abnormalities.

Shannon (Host)


And they really can occur. At any time something inside your system can break or become overwhelmed. A lot of aviation infrastructure gets heavy use. It's putting lots of gallons through and, conversely, some of our remote locations they have very low use and that's just as hard on infrastructure as high use because they're not getting wetted daily, they're not having things being flushed out In the middle is the sweet spot, but really high volumes and really low volumes. It becomes very critical to do these tasks and you're right, the mental piece of doing it again today, when it was fine for the last 13 days straight, can be very challenging. We recommend that you shake up who does it on a frequent basis, because you will also avoid uh situation blindness, right like oh, yep, it's fine again.

David (Guest)


Yep, it's fine again. Shake it up, yep, and in Alaska, I understand it gets really cold. So you know it's out in Bethel, Alaska, in the middle of February when it's 40 below, and you're asked to go out and do a, you know, just sample the tank. That's not easy, that's hard, and to make sure that people understand the importance of doing it every day, you know I mean you got to make it easy for them to do it. You can't make it difficult for them to do it. You can't make it difficult for them to do it. But you know, it's got to get done every day.

Shannon (Host)


And if I had a soapbox to stand on right now, I would say that for my crew or for my clients, because a lot of our infrastructure doesn't have easy water draw mechanisms, it's actually pretty difficult to do this and we have another episode planned on water draws but a lot. There's a lot of misconceptions. Where they turn it on, they're like, yep, just fuel in there. But you actually have to draw the volume of the water draw pipe out because that's all full of fuel and before you would ever reach any water at the bottom of the tank. And so we've definitely seen cases before where people have drawn out a gallon and a half and still had lots of water in the tank because they just never quite got to it, because they'll draw it out and then it fills back up with fuel again.


And what clients can do to make it better is to label their water draws with the minimum fuel amount so that they know they have to draw at least three and a half gallons, or five gallons depending on how big the tank is. And also so you're prepared you don't bring a five gallon bucket to a 10 gallon party and then just making the water draws easier, If it's in the top of a horizontal tank, make sure that the hand pump is installed and there's, you know, the drop pipe to the bottom of the tank is there and the tank was installed at the correct grade so that the water's where it's supposed to be. Like, all of those things can make compliance with these regulations a lot easier on the personnel doing them.

David (Guest)


Absolutely. And to take that a step further to ensure that we have some sort of bonding grounding cable on my sampling apparatus, because anytime that we move fuel, fall fuel through the air or filter fuel, we're generating static electricity and it's it's not that it happens every day. But if I can, you know, if I can mitigate it and all together then I'd much rather do that than just you know what. Today's not the day, today's not going to be the day that this happens and all of a sudden it does happen. Because unfortunately it does happen. And all of a sudden it does happen, because unfortunately it does happen, make consequences when it does happen.


So that's the thing. So often, you know, just fueling aircraft, I mean, it's almost a natural habit to attach the bonding cable from the refueling vehicle to the aircraft. Well, what about when I'm sampling my buckets or my filter system or my tank, I'm not generating static electricity? Well, in fact you are. So we see that I don't like to use the word all the time, but unfortunately, you know, it's about 95% of the time. There's a lot of people that just don't understand that.

Shannon (Host)


It's a very common ATA 103 audit finding. The lack of grounding at different parts of the process is probably the number one finding, and then the number two finding is lack of filtration documentation like when did you last change this filter. It's not clearly marked, it's not in a record somewhere, they just are like oh, Ricky did it in July, but it needs to be marked somewhere clear and easy for everyone to see I don't know, do you?


have any other common audit findings that you would like to share with us, in case somebody's responsible for ATA compliance out there?

David (Guest)


Yes, I have one extremely good one. All of our filter vessels have a rated flow. So the manufacturer will provide on the side of the filter vessel the rated flow of the filter. So, as far as when they manufactured the filters and the elements and the housing and everything that goes along with it, it says this filter will filter X amount of gallons per minute. There's also what's called a differential pressure gauge that attaches to the inlet and the outlet of the filter vessel. That tells us what the difference in inlet being the higher pressure, versus the outlet pressure, which is the low pressure side. It tells us how dirty or clean our filters are the industry has had for years and years and years. The maximum differential pressure is going to be 15 psi, pounds per square inch. The caveat is it's 15 PSI at the rated flow.

Shannon (Host)


Not at rest.

David (Guest)


Not at rest.

Shannon (Host)


That is a good one.



Or not at half of the rated flow. So in other words, if I'm flowing at 300 gallons a minute, in that example the maximum differential pressure I can have is 15 PSI. At that point I have to change my elements. Well, what if I don't get to 300 gallons per minute? What if I'm only flowing at 150 gallons per minute? Well, I'm no longer looking for 15 PSI, since I'm only flowing at 50% of the rated flow at 150 gallons. Now I'm no longer looking for 15 PSI, I'm looking for 50% of that, psi being seven and a half. So so often we go up and see people writing down differential pressures of you know seven, eight, nine. But you look in and they see what their flow rate is and it's half of what the flow rate should be on the filter. So by that time, if you truly were flowing at the rated flow of that filter vessel, you're above that 15 PSI, in danger of bursting your filters and not having any filters any longer.

Shannon (Host)


And for those who are not knowledgeable, what does that high psi indicate?

David (Guest)


Dave. So there are a couple of different types of filter elements that are out there, for example, your two-stage filter element, which is a coalescer separator, where it collects the dirt and separates out the water and that collects the dirt. There's a higher resistance, so it's almost like your vacuum cleaner, where the vacuum cleaner has a hard time sucking up more dirt if it's plugged up, so there's a higher pressure going in than coming out. So what that tells us is the higher differential pressure tells us that our filter elements are getting plugged, in this instance with solid material, solid particulate, with a monitor, a filter monitor vessel that works almost like a pamper's diaper. It utilizes a superabsorbent polymer that actually absorbs the moisture. So when that moisture, when that super absorbent polymer, you know, captures and collects and absorbs the moisture, it's harder to push the fuel through it, giving us a higher differential pressure, telling us that those filters are beginning to get plugged up.

Shannon (Host)


It's exhausted the media, and that's what's causing the differential pressure. Correct, okay.

David (Guest)


Unfortunately, those types of monitors are used on lower flow rate systems, and those lower flow rate systems don't have what they call a direct read differential pressure gauge. Yes, so in order to read differential pressure, I have to have flow through the filter in order for me to read it. If I look at that differential pressure and I don't have any flow through it, it's not measuring any pressure going in or pressure going out, so it's going to read zero.

Shannon (Host)


So for that system you have to know the filtration type and be able to tell that you're like. I don't have a reading on both sides. Therefore I have no reading.

David (Guest)


Correct. You got to know what type of filter system you have so you can identify. If so, when I sump my filter vessel, if I have a monitor type of filter vessel or elements, and I sump the filter and I find water, I really shouldn't find water in there because that water should be absorbed in that media. So right off the bat I should you know, while I'm flowing fuel, that should indicate. If I looked at my differential pressure, I would probably see a low reading, if not zero, because that tells me that there's no longer any.

Shannon (Host)


Thank you for sharing that. I feel like we're at the gospel of filtration right here, because this is something that is so misunderstood and you laid it out so cleanly and clearly. I really appreciate that.

David (Guest)


Absolutely, and you brought up the point a little while ago about making sure that people not only know how to do the task, but why am I doing the task and why am I doing the task in that method?


I mean so often and that's kind of the method behind our madness is that I can show you how to do it and most people will understand how to do it. But it's like when you were a two-year-old, those questions that all come out to say, well, why do we do it? Why, why? Why? It's like when you were a two-year-old, those questions that all come out to say, well, why do we do it, why, why? Why? We find that if someone understands why the task is done in the way it is and what the repercussions are downstream if you don't do it in that way and why it's done that way, people will not only understand how to do it, they will also continue to do it that way because they know what the repercussions are downstream and they feel comfortable doing it because they understand, like, what the consequences are if they don't.

Shannon (Host)


I think for a lot of people when they don't get correct training, it can feel like there aren't any consequences or there are poor consequences. You know like they're like, but there can be heavy ones, especially in the aviation industry. We, you know the risks are so much higher on this side of the transportation and storage.

David (Guest)



Shannon (Host)


All right. Well, Dave, thank you for taking us through that amazing ATA 103 overview. I was going to ask you if there was a place people wanted to learn more, where they could find more resources. Do you have any ideas for people? Especially from the ATA 103 perspective.

David (Guest)


I mean, my recommendation is just I mean the website is airlinesorg, so, get in there and there's a couple of tabs in there where you can just sign up, put your email in there and you know maybe your phone number and your name, and sign up for the periodical things that come out, and they have different types of updates regarding things that are happening within the ATA, but they also will include you on distributions of hey, there's a new ATA 103 specification that's out, it's 2000 and whatever, point whatever. And typically, once you get on that mailing list, you're not going to get off unless you opt-out.

Shannon (Host)


Forever, forever. And then your company also has resources available at their website, correct?

David (Guest)


Yeah, we have a bunch of information on the website. I mean, in essence, is our website. We've got a ton of information, a lot of online training on that website. It's interesting, when we first developed the business, probably back in 2000, it started in late 2011, and we actually opened it in 2012. Our goal was the way that the industry was going. The industry was really going towards more online training, kind of checking the box type thing. So that's kind of how we developed the programs and then we'd host a training program every now and then. Well, fast forward, gosh. Probably five or six years after that. I can show you a picture of a refueling vehicle and I can show you a picture of a filter and I can show you a picture of a tank farm, but it looks nothing like anybody has.


So we've seen such an increase and we'll literally come to your location and train your people on your equipment, which is such a benefit to the industry, especially the younger generation coming up, and we haven't had a lot of experience in seeing some of the different types of control valves and hose and pressure control valves and nozzles and filtration. It can be extremely, extremely cumbersome to get your way through that if you don't have a mentor at the location there to help you out. So we really pride ourselves on being able to, and that's why I was mentioning to you I'm up in the upper peninsula of Michigan here this week. A couple of these smaller airports and they jumped on the opportunity for me to be up here and train them on their equipment. They're 80 miles apart, but their equipment one person has a 1986 refueler, the other one has a 2012. So the equipment is so, so diverse. It's it's incredible.

Shannon (Host)


So it's also very difficult to make a training that can cover every possible configuration at a commercial airport in the United States. There are so many different combinations. You essentially end up with a generic training. That is a good start, maybe, but it's still not how to do your job with this equipment right here. And we see that in our same thing. We can start with general permit requirements but we end up writing to the specific facility and what they're actually doing with what they're doing.


Exactly Because otherwise it's so general. It doesn't really provide an adequate training. I don't think.

David (Guest)


Absolutely. And you know, so often when we go to these places they're saying you know, we're so happy that we found you guys, because I don't like online training. It's like, oh, we hear that on a regular basis. And again, I mean, in essence, the online training is a good thing to you know, to get you know if you've gone through the training you know every couple of years or something like. That's why a lot of the the, the places that we go to people are asking us to come in and train their people on their equipment because they have such a young staff that have never been around this kind of thing.

Shannon (Host)


So it really was an irony. I think that we have taken an industry that people have gravitated to because they like working outside, working with their hands. They're mechanically inclined. You know they are, you know they're. They're very familiar with infrastructure and engineering and putting things together in their minds as they work, and then we throw them in an online training where they're clicking buttons. That's very challenging for this whole group, the whole industry because we chose this industry for the hands-on interactive piece.

David (Guest)


I couldn't have said it better. It's just gosh almighty. We take a kinesthetic learner and put them in a classroom you know and say, okay, learn from here.

Shannon (Host)


Well, Dave, I have one last question for you that we ask all of our guests Do you have any fun stories or strange occurrences that you'd like to share with us, related to your job or aviation, or anything like that?

David (Guest)


How long do we have on this podcast?


As long as you need. I actually have two and I have one that was interesting, that took place here last year, and in conjunction with the ATA 103, there's a couple of other industry standards and regulations. One of them is the NFPA-407. So they kind of go hand in hand. So the National Fire Protection Association under the guideline and standard 407 has a lot to do and they dovetail back and forth really well together. The ATA-103.


Well, I went out to do this, gone to an in-person class and a fuel handling class and we were going through some of the labeling and placarding that needed to be on the refueling vehicle and he said during the classes is there any way that you could come out and just kind of give us a cursory audit, just kind of see how our facility ranks with everybody else and let us know where we may be deficient and help us out?


I go absolutely. So I went out the following day and a young gentleman is standing next to the refueling vehicle, next to some of these placards, and I'm walking around it and I had noticed it when I first walked up. The way the requirement is that for your emergency fuel shutoff and the emergency shutoff switch or button, whatever you have on the refueling vehicle. There's certain criteria as far as the letters and the similar background and the wording, and it also says that the standard says you should have an arrow pointing to the button and how to operate it. So, whether it's a push or pull, well, there's the emergency fuel shut off lettering. It's perfect. There's the arrow, and then the person has literally the words push or pull on the emergency fuel shut-off button. And I started chuckling.


It had both, both. He literally copied the standard and put it onto a label and put it on his refueler and he was standing in front of it and I started chuckling. He goes you saw it, didn't you? And I go yeah.

Shannon (Host)


Push or pull.

David (Guest)


I said just take one of those off and you'll be fine. Whatever way you actually have to operate, it is good oh, that's awesome.


The other quick story was uh, we were in, um was out, and it was, uh, like St. Louis, Missouri I think it was, or someplace in Missouri, and it snowed and we had come out to do an cursory audit on this facility. And we go in and start looking at the paperwork and it was I remember it very distinctively it was December 20th, it was a Friday, and I noticed that all the paperwork for the daily checks was filled out to the 22nd and I said, um, that's really in my mind. I say that's pretty interesting. And I said so, how do you get to the 22nd? And without, even, without even flinching, he passes on to me.


He says, well, I'm not going to be here the next two days. So I said, okay, well, just by the way, it might not be a good way to fill out both of these days, so maybe you have someone else that can fill it out instead. But let's go out and take a look at the rest of your facility. We look out in the rest of the facility. So on that Friday it was about noontime when I went out there, but he had already had his Friday checks done. It had a fresh fallen snow the night before and there wasn't a footprint in the snow, so we call it the case of the floating lineman.

Shannon (Host)


We sing the Whip It Good song when we see that.

David (Guest)


Oh, I love that. I love that. Whip it, whip it. Good, I'm going to plagiarize that if you don't mind. Heck yeah.

Shannon (Host)


Yeah, do it. So the thing that gets me about that is I guarantee that that guy thought he was doing what he was supposed to, which was filling out the paperwork. He was missing the context of having to actually go do the checks.

David (Guest)


And you've heard this, I know before, and it's like well, that's what the guy wrote before me.

Shannon (Host)


Yep, that's how I was trained to do it. Or the other guy left and, you know, no one's ever said anything different. Yeah, yep, Dave, what a pleasure. Thank you so much for joining us today. I appreciate all your years experience. I am thankful that you said yes to this podcast and I'm glad that we were your first one.

David (Guest)


Oh, my gosh, yeah. So I appreciate the offer and the invite and just pass on to everybody. I mean, I've given you the info and by all means use this as a resource and it doesn't cost you anything. I'd much rather say, if I can save you time and trying to find where this standard or this regulation comes from and I can, you know, shoot you over a key. Here's kind of the excerpt of what it's talking about. Here's the interpretation of that. I'd much rather have someone call me, text me, email me than spending two or three hours trying to find it in what some of these regulations that are, you know, as you know, are like Bibles.

Shannon (Host)


They are Absolutely, Dave. We will include your name and phone number and your website and we will include links to the and also the NFPA 407 and the API 1595, or where you can purchase those things. Perfect, and that should cover all the resources. Again, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time, dave.

David (Guest)


You're welcome to say hi to the girls.

Shannon (Host)


for me, Okay, I will see ya.

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