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Offshore Refuel Scenario

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Offshore Refuel Scenario

Old 20th Jun 2009, 20:06
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Offshore Refuel Scenario

Scenario:
Offshore on deck receiving fuel. One Pilot in aircraft watching the gauge the other outside monitoring deck operations. Rig refueling crew told to top off both tanks. Refueling crew consists of one person operating the fuel line, one at the pump and others at fire stations. Refueling crew does not realize tank is nearing capacity and overfills causing a small spill.
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Who is responsible for the spill? Pilot or Refueling Crew?
What could be done to prevent such occurrences.
What about if spill is caused due to aircraft squatting while being hot refueled?
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There are a number of participants on this forum from different operating areas and information on your SOP's (what does it say or what it should say), best practices, etc. would be appreciated.
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Please no bashing of any particular segment.
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Old 20th Jun 2009, 20:57
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How accurate is the fuel gauge on the aircraft?
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Old 20th Jun 2009, 21:22
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Person responsible for making sure there is no fuel spill is the pilot outside who should liaise between the pilot watching the gauge and the refueller. He should inform refueller when tanks are nearly full so refueller can adjust the fuel flow rate. This only applies to gravity refuel as there should be not fuel spill from pressure refuel unless high level cut offs fail!!

332M
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Old 20th Jun 2009, 22:26
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PIC

The quantity of fuel to be loaded should be decided before hot refulling is commenced. To just ''top up" is too dangerous. Whilst some helicopters are such that you can see the fuel level at the filling port, 412, 76 for example, others you cannot.

The Pilot In Command is responsible for insuring that hot refuelling can be carried out safely.

TL
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Old 21st Jun 2009, 02:10
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Mmmm ...

Whilst I have to agree that the Pilot is responsible for having sufficient fuel for flight .... I believe it is the responsibility of the refueling crew to ensure that the tanks are not filled to overflowing ....

The man with the nozzle is supposed to check that fuelling rate does NOT exceed capacity of the aircraft accept the fuel...... his Mk 1 eyeball should be focused on the tank lip at all times whilst he is on the job!

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Old 21st Jun 2009, 02:38
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Having refueled many aircraft (choppers included) with a nozzle, the responsibility for not over filling rested with me. Even if the pilot monitoring, tells pilot liasing to stop, then liason says stop, the elapsed time will be about 1 second before flow is stopped. Thats to late to stop a spill.

Another factor is that when using a refueling gun, all sources of ignition should be removed, that means aircraft power, so no ability to monitor fuel level on the gauges.

Its not rocket science to look and listen to the fuel going into the tank, and is a simple matter to ease up on the trigger to slow the feed.
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Old 21st Jun 2009, 02:40
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I would be interested to ascertain why this question has been asked?

Would also be very interesting to know what type of helicopter you are relating to.

Different helicopters have different volume receiving capacities; one type may have one large tank with one large refuelling orifice, whilst another has six tanks fed by one refuelling orifice.

The first will normally accept fuel at a high volume and an overflow or spill would only occur if someone is not watching!!

The second can have a large feeder tank, which then in turn drains into many smaller tanks by gravity alone. If the refueller is not watching the level in the feeder tank, then he/she can easily have a ďBlowbackĒ of that tank when in fact only a % of the required fuel load has been delivered.

From the Operations that I have been involved in around the world I make the following points.

Hot refuelling can only be undertaken in accordance with some rigid SOPís from both the Platform and Helicopter Operator.

That includes training for the refueller on all helicopter types that are likely to be utilised on that operation.

The pilot outside on the helideck is the pilot nominated by the PIC to control the overall safety of activities under and around the disc area.
He is not expected to control the equipment, personnel or standard of training of the refueller or his company, only to know that they are compliant to the SOP.

There is a Duty of Care from the Helicopter Company to ensure that personnel operating in and around a running helicopter, have been trained correctly to undertake the required task and that there are SOPís in place to control the task required.
Similarly there is a Duty of Care of the refuellers employer to ensure that the individual has met all the required training and levels of proficiency required under the SOPís.

Without a full investigation, itís not fair to lay blame on any system, company or individual, however if I was a betting man, I would expect that:

Failure to comply with the SOP.
Lack of training or proficiency
Incorrect perception that timeframes for the task must be minimal.

would be high on my list to investigate.
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Old 21st Jun 2009, 03:46
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I would assume with the scenario you describe that the fueling crew was at fault. You asked the refueling crew to top off the tanks. That to me states that you have given them an instruction that would not require a signal from the pilot when to stop.

If the refueling crew was unable to tell when the tanks where reaching capacity they should have questioned the instruction, and looked for a signal from the pilot.

However in future I would suggest that a quantity of fuel is suggested to the refueling crew. This will eliminate the risk of further occurrences. That way no-one will be at fault.
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Old 21st Jun 2009, 06:54
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all sources of ignition should be removed
Not easy during a hot refuel. Also not easy is listening to the fuel entering the tank.

As to who's responsible - do you really expect any oil company to accept the blame? Even on the best run decks, these things happen. Best not to advertise the fact, I think.
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Old 21st Jun 2009, 08:28
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You will also probably alleviate most of the problem with a ZVA forecourt style nozzle. Amazing how many aircraft refuel installs don't have them. They will flow up to 750 L/mn.
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Old 21st Jun 2009, 12:52
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Is there no facility for the refueller to plug in to an external jack and talk to the pilot? That always makes the operation much easier!
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Old 21st Jun 2009, 13:37
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A technique we use is to give the nozzle-man a thumbs up when within 200lbs of target, on the S76B, that way he knew to adjust the flow rate and watch carefully to see the cutoff signal, and/or not overflow. Works for us.

I would be shy of using any communications equipment near an open fuel port during refueling. I've only seen one refueling fire. It was precipitated by static from the nozzle not being grounded prior to fitment to the fuel port. The rest is obvious.
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Old 21st Jun 2009, 16:05
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Nigerian In Law
 
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Just To Clarify...........

Is this a hot, ie rotors running refuel or is the aircraft shut down ? No mention either way in the scenario.

NEO
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Old 21st Jun 2009, 16:08
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What about if spill is caused due to aircraft squatting while being hot refueled?
What about if spill is caused due to aircraft squatting while being hot refueled?
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Old 22nd Jun 2009, 11:07
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Hot re-fuelling happens onshore as well! Gravity re-fuels being a problem. The guy on the nozzle is watching for a signal from the pilot and for tell-tale signs the tank is almost full, very difficulty when the pilot wants to top-up.
Suggest hot gravity re-fuels to top-up e.g 332 should be stopped. Been many occasions when a lack of concentration causes an over fuelling or indeed a small spill (cupfull).
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Old 22nd Jun 2009, 11:59
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Farmer,

Thanks. I ignored that old saying, "Always read the fing question !!"

Cheers,

NEO
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Old 22nd Jun 2009, 13:25
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Suggest hot gravity re-fuels to top-up e.g 332 should be stopped.
My first hot refuel was in July 1962 over the North Sea at Mach 0.75/35,000ft.. My last was on the Lufong 13 Platform in the South China Sea in November 2008. From 1966 my helicopter was being hot refuelled regularly both military and civil offshore.
Of the refuellings I have done since then at least 5,000 have been with Pumas or Super Pumas. During that time I have witnessed or have been told about uncountable spills and blowbacks caused by ignorant or uneducated operators but I have never seen, known or even heard of a Jet A1 fuelled helicopter catching fire whilst refuelling.

Hot refuelling is a non-event.

Last edited by Fareastdriver; 22nd Jun 2009 at 19:59.
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Old 22nd Jun 2009, 18:59
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Fareastdriver

I agree that hot refueling is, for the most part, a non-event.

The fire I mentioned happened in the cold and dry of the Alaskan winter during an attempt to fuel JP4, not JetA1. The helicopter was lost to it.

WIII
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Old 22nd Jun 2009, 22:12
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On the '76, at about 200lb to go to whatever fuel state I wanted (which was not always topped off - and that can be even more important when you are limited by payload) I used to "hang" my hand out the window - this showed all the the fueling guys that we were getting close. At about 100lb to go I would raise my hand, with thumb and forefinger spread to symbolize the gap between "where we are now and the end" and then close the gap in proportion to how close we were getting to what I wanted. This gave them all a "countdown" to how close we were getting. I always gave a thumbs-up when we got there. Never had a serious overfuel or a spill in a couple of thousand refuels.
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Old 22nd Jun 2009, 23:56
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Thank you, good posts all round. Most of our aircraft are equipped with external load speakers and if used would probably allow the pilot to communicate better with the refueling crew along with the visual queues. However if the refueling crew is not paying attention, there is only so much one can do from inside the cockpit.

Does anyone know of suppliers of automatic shut-off Jet A-1 refueling nozzles.

Besides moving to a closed circuit refueling system it would be the most practical way to minimize spills from lack of attention.

TGZ
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