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Voice of Users
RTS: Refueling Total System
Customer : Japan Airport Fueling Service Co., Ltd. (JAFS)
Essential support to Narita International Airport: high-quality refueling service for aircraft.
Mr. Kyosuke Someya, Managing Director, Jet Fuel Handling Department
Mr. Masahito Takatsuka, General Manager, Jet Fuel Handling Department
Developed to realize the ‘World’s best refueling quality,’ RTS (refueling total system) reduced job pressure for the fuel handlers and also enabled them to provide even safer and surer refueling.
As the gateway to Japan and hub airport for Asia, Narita International Airport gets plenty of attention. JAFS (Japan Airport Fueling Service Co., Ltd.) is responsible for refueling most of the jets that land at Narita.
Mr. Kyosuke Someya, Managing Director of the Jet Fuel Handling Department says, “At JAFS, to win the highest approval ratings from international airlines, we aim to provide the ‘world’s best refueling service.’”
Fuel for Narita International Airport is piped from the oil terminal at the Port of Chiba. Fuel for Narita International Airport is carried by an underground pipeline from the Port of Chiba to the tarmac (aircraft parking apron). The fuel is then supplied to aircraft parked on the tarmac via servicers (refueling vehicles). With over 50 servicers, JAFS supplies each aircraft in accordance with the demands of the airlines and oil companies.
At a large international airport like Narita, diverse aircraft operated by many airlines are scheduled to land and take off in a timetable that may be disrupted by bad weather. In these circumstances, it would be a challenge for any company to safely and surely provide refueling within the turnaround time.
To meet this challenge, JAFS has developed and introduced RTS (refueling total system) operations.
Mr. Masahito Takatsuka, General Manager of the Jet Fuel Handling Department said, “To deliver high-quality fuel services, we need a control system that can ensure that each refueling job is done on time. Now, by linking the servicers and office by wireless WAN, we’ve built a system capable of tracking job progress in real time.”
For the terminal used in the servicers, the system designers selected Toughbook CF-19 with built-in wireless WAN.
Reliance solely on voice radio calls for communication used to cause stress among the jet fuel handlers.
Mr. Katsuyuki Kato, Team Leader, Aircraft Refueling Group, Jet Fuel Handling Department
Mr. Isao Ogawa, Chief Operator, Aircraft Refueling Group, Jet Fuel Handling Department
A servicer is basically operated by a single person. This means that the handler is responsible for everything including driving, connecting the servicer to the fuel hydrant, operating the lift, connecting the fuel hose to the aircraft, the actual refueling, and completing the transaction by issuing a work docket. Meanwhile, the people in the office are also kept busy. With a constant eye on the flight schedules provided by the airlines, they have to readjust the entire work schedule to deal with flight delay notifications.
Mr. Katsuyuki Kato, Team Leader of the Aircraft Refueling Group explained:
“Not just anybody can be sent to refuel any aircraft. The fact is, jet fuel handlers have to be qualified for the different jobs they are sent to do. Depending on the type of aircraft and regulations of the airline requesting fuel, the handler has to have the right accreditation. In other words, when working out a new refueling schedule, you can’t just assign work to the first person whose time is free.”
“If the flight schedule is disrupted, in the office we have to grasp the total situation and reassign work to the proper people. With all the knock-on effects, it can be hard to make the necessary adjustments.”
To properly carry out job rescheduling, communication between the fuel handlers and the office is extremely important. Before RTS was implemented, however, the only way to communicate between the fuel handlers and the office was by talking on the radio.
Mr. Kato recalled: “Refueling has to be properly completed in the limited time remaining before the departure of the aircraft. Using only voice communications over the radio, however, it was impossible for the office to keep up to date with the progress of each job. The uncertainty caused distress.”
“And, because the work dockets were handwritten, if a mistake was made while filling in the particulars, the whole thing had to be rewritten all over again. Time was wasted, possibly causing problems with the flight schedule. For the office staffs and the fuel handlers, this caused stress at most.”
Ability to track job progress in real time: Large reductions in work load
Job control board screen displayed on an office workstation. As well as showing the job schedule for each fuel handler color coded, the progress of current jobs is shown in as-good-as real time.
A Toughbook CF-19 being used in the cab of a refueling vehicle, called a ‘servicer’ by airport ground crew. Using 3G wireless communications, the progress of refueling and other data is relayed in close to real time to the office server.
Design of RTS began September, 2009. After about a year of development, operations started in November, 2010.
Using RTS, based on the flight timetable, the coordinator in the office starts out by scheduling the job assignments of the fuel handlers. This schedule is shown on the job control board, now easily viewed on workstation screens.
After finding out their assignments from the job control board, fuel handlers pick up a Toughbook from a storage shelf, place it in the servicer, and head off to refuel the assigned aircraft.
When the filling operation begins, data from the flow meter on the servicer is sent to the Toughbook, and this data is periodically relayed to the office server via the 3G mobile communication network operated by NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest cell phone communication provider.
In the office, ‘job plates’ on the job control board, in almost real time, show the refueling status of current jobs. When the job is completed, the job plate changes color, making it easy for the coordinator in the office to instantly see the refueling status of each job. This enables smooth and confident transition to the next job assignment.
RTS has considerably improved on-site operations.
Mr. Isao Ogawa, Chief Operator of the Jet Fuel Handling Department commented: “Summer or winter, never mind the wind or the rain, we are out working 365 days a year. Even in this harsh environment, owing to their excellent shock, water, and dust resistance, we’ve never had a problem with the Toughbook CF-19s we use in the servicers. And, using the touch screen, the CF-19 is easy to operate. The Toughbook now plays a vital role in keeping our work safe and sure.”
In addition, each servicer also carries a dot-matrix printer. After refueling the aircraft, a work docket for the job is printed and handed over to the captain or the person in charge of the airline ground crew to sign. With that, the job is formally completed.
Mr. Ogawa mentioned the effect: “It’s a great help to be able to quickly and automatically output the work dockets. When we had to fill out the dockets by hand, if we made a mistake, it might have ended up delaying the departure of the aircraft.”
Another benefit of the new system is the ability to store and display, on the Toughbook, digital versions of all the bulky manuals, required for each type of aircraft and for the refueling equipment that had to be carried. These reference documents are now paperless.
The greatest advantage, however, is that now JAFS can focus on what has always been the primary mission of the company: providing a high-quality refueling service.
On shelves at the office, more than 50 Toughbook CF-19s.
Inside the servicer cab, along with the Toughbook CF-19, fuel handlers use a dot-matrix printer for issuing work dockets.
Next-generation refueling system makes great contribution to safely keeping flights departing on time.
A source in BCC, the company that developed RTS, explained: “Developed for use both in an office and on site in service vehicles, the extended range of this system meant that the first priority was problem-free operability during refueling work. With this in mind we selected various candidate devices, including computers, PDAs, and mobile terminals designed for use in vehicles, and considered how they would perform in the current application. Because it can take rough handling and, with built-in WAN, provides reliable wireless communications over NTT DoCoMo's 3G network, our selection of the Toughbook was accepted by JAFS.”
Globally, few airports use intelligent refueling control systems similar to RTS. Managing Director Mr. Someya is keen to remedy this lack: “I am confident that RTS, developed and introduced by JAFS, is a next-generation support system that is able to contribute greatly to the safety of air transportation. Rather than keeping the system to ourselves, we are thinking about actively promoting its adoption, in Japan and overseas, by companies who have needs similar to ours.”
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