Back in the dim and distant past, when fuel tank maintenance tasks were required to be carried out on in service aircraft, the fuel tank would be emptied & power turned off. One or two tank access panels would be removed, and a simple airgun held in the open tank access to blow fumes out for a few minutes. The smallest mechanic was then selected to enter the tank and carry out the required work. The health and safety side of tank working was covered by the mechanics drinking a glass of milk after his/her exit. This was to rid their mouth of the fuel taste.
Tank team costs are significant and there is inevitably a time delay between their engagement and reaching the tank entry location, however, they arrive fully equipped and able to carry out required tasks quicker due to the works repetitive nature and common issues. Most will also offer a warranty on their fuel leak repairs, ensuring the highest standards of work.
An MRO’s teams is often available to begin tasks quicker and do not issue invoices to themselves. However, there are many hidden costs with this system, the costs of a fully equipped tank entry kit and its maintenance, the costs of confined spaces training for staff & their medical certification to ensure availability 24/7. In many cases, the tasks will take longer due to their being unfamiliar with the required work, this is especially the case when dealing with fuel leak repairs.
Things have changed with vast safety measures being implemented, leaving organisations to either set up their own tank entry team or engage a third-party specialist provider. Having met and discussed fuel tank entry and fuel tank maintenance with many airlines and MRO’s over the last 15 years as both a fuel tank entry service owner and a hands-on project leader, also having worked on and organised thousands of tank entry tasks worldwide I have gained the opinion that most organisations take one of two views. Both have their pros and cons.
Third party specialist teams will usually have the additional equipment and years of experience to quickly locate the leak entry point ensuring 1 st time fixes without involving guesswork. A benefit of using specialists is the reduction of downtime and thus lost revenue. In many cases these benefits far outweigh the cost of the deploying a third party specialist team.
In General, small organisation will rely on specialist teams for what would be a small & infrequent number of tasks each year, whereas larger organisations carrying out many tank entry tasks each year will use its own team. From a financial point, this very much makes sense.
Reviewing our industry post Covid many things have changed. So at Afast Aero we have adapted our service to give our customers more choice.
Most specialist teams charge per man-hour for fuel leak repairs. This, to be honest, is quite mad, especially when your aircraft is AOG. Basically, the quicker the repair is carried out (by a team doing a very good job) the less they will be paid. The longer they take (by a team not doing a good job) the more they get paid. This is why we now charge a fixed price for fuel leak repairs carried out on our teams most familiar aircraft types.
Most tank entry teams are based in North America and Western Europe and so in many cases the costs and time involved in team dispatch is unattractive to customers in the rest of the world. Add to this that flight frequencies have been reduced & flight costs have increased, this has made making the costs of engaging any 3 rd party services slightly less attractive.
Adapting to the changing situation Afast Aero is now offering additional flexible services that we hope will appeal to customers worldwide, these are as follows –
The sale or loan supply of small but fully equipped tank entry kits worldwide on a planned or AOG basis that will allow your staff to carry out all tasks from a simple quick component replacement to a complex fuel leak repair in the safest of conditions.
The deployment of fuel leak consultants to work with and guide your staff through the best methods to ensure speedy & correct repairs. Preparation consultancy can also take place whilst our consultant is travelling, thus reducing down time.
A video consultancy that allows our team to talk directly with your staff in order to offer our guidance and experience when carrying out fuel leak repairs. This is done using the latest specially designed video inspection system which can be accessed via a common smart phone. This system is used to record all communications, zoom in, capture photos, highlight areas, and use pointers for direction. This system is only used in the tanks once safe explosive levels have been achieved. A gas metre, some basic tooling and a tank entry mechanic who can communicate in English are all that’s required by the customer. This worldwide service is available 24/7 and is carried out for a fixed price irrespective of the duration. The consultancy covers safety instructions, accurate leak exit point identification, testing to accurately identify leak entry points & advice on how to carry out the repair correctly and quickly. All advice is of course IAW approved maintenance data. AMM/SRM etc.
Talking a mechanic through how to best repair a fuel leak will take a little longer than that of a specialist team on site, but it will often be completed quicker due the fact that the work can begin immediately as customers don’t have to wait 12-24-36 hours for a team’s arrival. This system reduces invoice costs substantially, in many cases it should give a saving of around 70% when compared with the deployment of a traditional fuel tank entry team. For many specialist service suppliers, it will not be possible to meet the new flexible demands of their customers as their skills are very much hands on. But for suppliers who can adapt, their services will reduce costs and tasks times, This is a must for operators and MRO’s who are now more than ever seeking to reduce maintenance costs without compromising quality.
I believe the licenced video inspection application we use for fuel leak repair guidance could be used by many operators for a variety of inspections, especially when trying to assess issues away from base. For details, please contact our friends below. hostcomm.co.uk
Back in the dim and distant past, when fuel tank maintenance tasks were required to be
carried out on in service aircraft….