Learn How This Company Refuels An Aircraft Every 14 Seconds

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For most of the estimated 3.6 billion people who travel by airplane every year, it’s the sprawling stretch of concrete on the other side of the window.But inside the industry, this nexus of activity is known as the airport apron.

“The area around the parked aircraft is where all the ground operations take place,” explains Paul Oliver, IT General Manager for Shell Aviation.

This includes boarding passengers, loading and unloading cargo, and refueling the aircraft for the next flight.

Refueling is something that Oliver knows all about.

Shell Aviation – which is one of the commercial businesses within Royal Dutch Shell plc – produces, distributes, and sells high-quality aviation fuels and lubricants around the globe. In fact, the company provides fuel for almost 2 million aircraft every year at around 900 airports in 36 countries.

“We fuel an aircraft every 14 seconds,” says Oliver.

And for the thousands of people who perform this essential job, the airport apron is a busy and demanding work environment.

From Dubai to Yellowknife

The constant pace of outbound airplanes is only one of the apron’s many challenges. Refueling operators go to work in conditions that include bright lights, loud jet engines, bad weather, and extreme temperatures.

“We serve airports from the Middle East to Canada’s Northwest Territories,” says Victoria Guy, General Manager of Sales & Marketing at Shell. “We can be refueling aircraft in +45 degree conditions in Dubai or -45 in Yellowknife.”

Yet in an aviation industry known for its use of sophisticated technology, parts of the overall refueling process have historically been relatively manual and paper-based – especially when it comes to capturing and recording all the data associated with these 24/7 transactions.

Although flight schedules are generally known in advance, the refueling operator’s actual delivery is based on a pilot’s on-the-spot determination of how much fuel is needed for the upcoming flight. So when the refueling is complete, the operator needs to record information such as arrival and departure times, aircraft registration numbers, fuel volumes, and meter readings. Then this record must be verified and signed by the pilot.

In the past, Shell Aviation’s operators wrote everything down on a paper delivery ticket – irrespective of wind, rain, or dark of night. And it wasn’t until later in the shift that this data was finally entered into Shell’s business systems.

Not anymore.

A New Solution Takes Off

“We saw an opportunity to help develop a mobile, cloud-based application that could automate the ticketing process for our operators,” says Oliver in a recent video.

The co-innovated solution, coined “SkyPad,” combines a tablet and a mobile app utilizing the SAP Cloud Platform.

Now, the fuel operator carries a tablet that is prepopulated with most of the flight information for shift. All the operator needs to do is enter a few meter readings and timestamps and get the pilot’s signature – all of which can be done right on the tablet.

Even the tablets, which are certified incapable of igniting an explosion, are designed for the demanding apron environment.

“The SkyPad app runs on a Zone 1 intrinsically safe tablet,” Guy explains. “These are purpose-built tablets for use in environments where concentrations of flammable gases or vapors could occur.”

The Next Leg of the Flight

Shell Aviation is piloting its new app at 10 airports around the world. This includes Heathrow and Liverpool John Lennon in the UK, as well as airports in Singapore and East Malaysia. The company plans to roll SkyPad out to another 150 airports by the end of the year.

Feedback on the project has been very positive.

“We’re helping to simplify the refueler’s job while improving our data accuracy,” notes Jodie Boardman, an Inter-Plane Operations Manager for Shell at the Liverpool John Lennon airport. The overall goal is greater operational efficiency out on the apron.

“Every second saved is important for airlines looking for quick turnaround times,” Boardman says. “Completing the refueling process just minute sooner counts for a lot with our customers.”

Faster turnaround times mean a lot to those 3.6 billion passengers too.

“>For most of the estimated 3.6 billion people who travel by airplane every year, it’s the sprawling stretch of concrete on the other side of the window.

But inside the industry, this nexus of activity is known as the airport apron.

“The area around the parked aircraft is where all the ground operations take place,” explains Paul Oliver, IT General Manager for Shell Aviation.

This includes boarding passengers, loading and unloading cargo, and refueling the aircraft for the next flight.

Refueling is something that Oliver knows all about.

Shell Aviation – which is one of the commercial businesses within Royal Dutch Shell plc – produces, distributes, and sells high-quality aviation fuels and lubricants around the globe. In fact, the company provides fuel for almost 2 million aircraft every year at around 900 airports in 36 countries.

“We fuel an aircraft every 14 seconds,” says Oliver.

And for the thousands of people who perform this essential job, the airport apron is a busy and demanding work environment.

From Dubai to Yellowknife

The constant pace of outbound airplanes is only one of the apron’s many challenges. Refueling operators go to work in conditions that include bright lights, loud jet engines, bad weather, and extreme temperatures.

“We serve airports from the Middle East to Canada’s Northwest Territories,” says Victoria Guy, General Manager of Sales & Marketing at Shell. “We can be refueling aircraft in +45 degree conditions in Dubai or -45 in Yellowknife.”

Yet in an aviation industry known for its use of sophisticated technology, parts of the overall refueling process have historically been relatively manual and paper-based – especially when it comes to capturing and recording all the data associated with these 24/7 transactions.

Although flight schedules are generally known in advance, the refueling operator’s actual delivery is based on a pilot’s on-the-spot determination of how much fuel is needed for the upcoming flight. So when the refueling is complete, the operator needs to record information such as arrival and departure times, aircraft registration numbers, fuel volumes, and meter readings. Then this record must be verified and signed by the pilot.

In the past, Shell Aviation’s operators wrote everything down on a paper delivery ticket – irrespective of wind, rain, or dark of night. And it wasn’t until later in the shift that this data was finally entered into Shell’s business systems.

Not anymore.

A New Solution Takes Off

“We saw an opportunity to help develop a mobile, cloud-based application that could automate the ticketing process for our operators,” says Oliver in a recent video.

The co-innovated solution, coined “SkyPad,” combines a tablet and a mobile app utilizing the SAP Cloud Platform.

Now, the fuel operator carries a tablet that is prepopulated with most of the flight information for shift. All the operator needs to do is enter a few meter readings and timestamps and get the pilot’s signature – all of which can be done right on the tablet.

Even the tablets, which are certified incapable of igniting an explosion, are designed for the demanding apron environment.

“The SkyPad app runs on a Zone 1 intrinsically safe tablet,” Guy explains. “These are purpose-built tablets for use in environments where concentrations of flammable gases or vapors could occur.”

The Next Leg of the Flight

Shell Aviation is piloting its new app at 10 airports around the world. This includes Heathrow and Liverpool John Lennon in the UK, as well as airports in Singapore and East Malaysia. The company plans to roll SkyPad out to another 150 airports by the end of the year.

Feedback on the project has been very positive.

“We’re helping to simplify the refueler’s job while improving our data accuracy,” notes Jodie Boardman, an Inter-Plane Operations Manager for Shell at the Liverpool John Lennon airport. The overall goal is greater operational efficiency out on the apron.

“Every second saved is important for airlines looking for quick turnaround times,” Boardman says. “Completing the refueling process just minute sooner counts for a lot with our customers.”

Faster turnaround times mean a lot to those 3.6 billion passengers too.


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