Need To Know
Avfuel on top of fuel needs as storms ravage U.S.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and in anticipation for Hurricane Irma – in addition to the numerous wildfires throughout the western portion of the country – Avfuel’s logistics and supply departments are hard at work keeping FBOs supplied with fuel; this is crucial for the affected regions in evacuation, search and rescue, and relief efforts.
Operating around the clock, the team’s ultimate goal is to provide reliable fuel supply and efficient communication while prioritizing the safety of all parties involved.“When it comes to natural disasters, we are proactive in getting ahead of the event and our customers’ fuel needs,” said Ben Spence, Avfuel’s logistics manager. “Our redundant supply situation and sophisticated logistic systems allow our definitive experts to handle unforeseen emergencies like Hurricane Harvey and Irma, and the wildfires occurring in California.”
Such proactive measures help ensure FBOs receive fuel to evacuate passengers and planes, keep tanks heavy for stability during storms, and sustain operations for medivac and helicopters, and their tenants’ return. Fuel reliability has been key for FBOs throughout southeast Texas who have been major players in relief efforts throughout Hurricane Harvey.
“Many of our network locations are serving as strategic hubs for relief efforts, requiring multiple loads of fuel per day – we’ve seen up to almost 10 fuel loads per day at some locations to support their operations,” said Matt Matthews, district manager for Avfuel. “These FBOs have been important for evacuating people from hospitals and senior centers, transferring them to the FBO, and then transporting them on to facilities throughout the United States through air ambulance and medivac missions. It’s not uncommon for some of these FBOs to have scores of aircraft on hand to assist in evacuations. The response from all operating facilities throughout the state has been pivotal for emergency operations in the aftermath of the storm by staging relief aircraft, and supplying the military and various relief organizations with fuel and support for their C-130s, C-17s, helicopters, King Airs and more. We’ve been busy ensuring that despite refinery outages and pipeline closures, these FBOs receive the fuel supply they need to continue their operations.”
For FBOs in locations directly hit by a storm, providing them with fuel way in advance is often the only chance to deliver the fuel safely – if roads are closed or the safety of the hauler becomes an issue, a truck can’t be dispatched. So in order to best serve these customers, it’s imperative for Avfuel’s logistics team to be ahead of the game and continuously monitor the storm to stay abreast of its path. Then, once the storm clears, it’s all about helping the FBOs get back up and running to full capacity as soon as possible.
Matthews said, “We are extremely proud of our FBOs; their disaster preparedness plans were critical to providing succinct direction for fuel loads and timing, and standing ready to support the clean-up and recovery missions.”
“We’re starting to get an idea of the damage that’s been done by Harvey,” added Matthews. “There’s going to be a lot of rebuilding. For those FBOs who experienced damage, we’ll keep in constant communication to determine how we can best serve their operations and their customers in the aftermath of the storm.”
In preparation for and response to natural disasters, Avfuel’s logistics and supply departments ramp up their around-the-clock efforts. Each of Avfuel’s staff members is highly-qualified to make informed decisions on fueling sources and transportation at any time of day, every day. The team also works closely with Avplan Trip Support, whose in-house meteorologists monitor the storm’s trajectory so the logistics staff knows who will be most affected and where the storm may be headed next. Of course, Avplan Trip Support was also instrumental in helping pilots and flight departments discern weather conditions for safe operations.
Spence continued, “This means having more people in the office 24/7/365 than we would normally need. It’s the only way to ensure we meet the requirements of our customers – it’s a necessity and it’s a team effort.”
And no matter how proactive a logistics team and its FBOs are with planning, reactive measures must always be taken. Hurricanes are unpredictable – Avfuel’s logistics and supply teams continue to closely monitor the storm’s path, adjust plans and contact additional customers who may need fuel support with a shift in storm trajectory.
“Our teams stay on the job throughout the whole process,” said Spence. “Before, during and after the hurricane we’re calling customers at their FBOs – or on their cell phones if they’re closed – reassessing their needs and finding the necessary supply. Even if an FBO isn’t right in the storm, if their primary supply terminal is compromised, or if we think they’re going to be a hub for relief efforts, we need to communicate with them as well. This gets compounded with the normal day-to-day supply complications that pop up from all around our network, such as wildfires, terminals that are down for maintenance, special events and more. Those needs don’t dissipate when there’s a hurricane.”
These day-to-day activities and scheduled events are what keep the Avfuel logistics and supply teams prepared for emergency events. Though large events such as the Super Bowl and NASCAR races are planned in advance, it keeps the crew’s ability to pull a high volume of fuel for numerous FBOs from multiple supply points sharp.
“Obviously with a weather emergency like a hurricane, or a natural disaster like a wildfire, there’s more of a reactive element at play, but big events help keep us prepared for the hectic nature of these other types of unfortunate happenings,” said Spence. “And after each event – planned or otherwise – we’re debriefing and looking at where we can improve our efficiencies.”
In addition to its logistics department, Avfuel’s quality assurance team is available 24/7/365; the team’s availability is a key service after a natural disaster to help assess any damage that may have occurred to fueling equipment or the integrity of the operation’s aviation fuel so safe operations can resume.