Shell Aviation is working with Cathay Pacific to improve refuelling efficiency at Changi Airport with Shell SkyPad Data Exchange, its end-to-end digital refuelling solution. Cathay Pilot, James Toye, believes that the airline, its crew and passengers will see real benefits once this is rolled out across the Cathay network .

Improving refuelling efficiency – A Captain’s View

Pilot, James Toye, has been flying with Cathay Pacific for 15 years. Today he is a Captain, flying Boeing 777s, part of Cathay’s long-haul fleet.

‘One of the things I love about flying is you get challenged on so many different aspects,’ says Toye. ‘It can be anything from motor skills, on how you physically fly the aircraft, to your technical ability and knowledge. From a Captain’s position, one of your big roles is leadership. You are the focal point of a very, very big team. Everyone is involved in this big team effort to make sure the operation goes smoothly.’

And Toye believes that these leadership skills are just as relevant to meeting challenges on the ground as they are in the air.

‘Obviously aircraft make money when they are flying, so we try to reduce ground time as much as we can, and this makes the pre-flight period quite busy. Traditionally when you look at an aircraft on a turnaround on the ground, there is a whole heap of services that need to go on.’

‘During a turnaround, the crew are normally the focal point for all the activities that are going on,’ says Toye. ‘You are setting up the aircraft for the entire flight, with activities like loading cargo, loading passengers, refuelling the aircraft, making sure the aircraft is clean. So certainly, during the pre-flight activities, there is a lot of paperwork, and there are a lot of things that need to get looked at and verified, to make sure the aircraft gets away. Very paper-centric processes certainly do take time.’

‘Refuelling is obviously a very critical one and the traditional process was always paper based. We put the required fuel volume onto a piece of paper, go down to the refueller, they would send it back and forth multiple times to make sure that the fuel level on the aircraft was very accurate and making sure that all the records match.’

Toye believes that the impact of digitalisation on the aviation industry has been growing for some time.

‘If you look at technology in aviation, it has made leaps and bounds. Every new generation of aircraft that comes through is smarter, and one of the biggest things we have done recently is through mobile devices. We use an internally-built application called Flight Folder. And this itself has all the information that a crew need for their particular flight.’ 

Cathay Pacific has been working with Shell Aviation at Singapore Changi Airport to benefit from digitalisation by integrating its Flight Folder with Shell SkyPad Data Exchange. This is Shell’s end-to-end, digital refuelling solution based on the SkyPad tablet used by Shell Aviation’s apron operators at over 140 locations around the world. The two systems communicate directly with each other, sharing information and creating a real-time link between the pilot and the refueller. 

‘The steps involved are certainly simplified,’ says Toye. The first aspect is a digital connection between the pilot application and the refueller on the ground. So, all messages are sent electronically back and forth. You get status updates on what is going on, and it physically saves someone walking back and forth from the two locations to ensure that all the paperwork matches.

‘Refuelling an aircraft happens in a number of stages. Typically, we will do a standby fuel figure, and this is to get the aircraft very close to the fuel figure that it needs, but without going over. Once passengers are checked in, and cargo loading is finished, we get an accurate weight of the aircraft. Then the crew make a final fuel decision, and this is where they will send a digital message through. From there, once the refuelling is finished, the SkyPad will send a digital fuel receipt through to the cockpit crew. They will verify all the data and send acceptance of the fuel receipt back to the SkyPad system. Then refuelling event is over.’

In addition to efficiency gains, digital refuelling, enabled by Shell SkyPad data exchange, means that the whole process is now contactless, giving staff greater protection as the aviation industry looks to recover from the COVID-19. 

Doris Tan, General Manager for Shell Aviation in Asia Pacific and Middle East, says Shell is committed to working with airlines, across the world, the drive greater efficiency through digitalisation. 

‘Timeliness and efficiency are crucial to our customers who are operating in a very competitive business environment, and we are so proud to be working together with Cathay Pacific to demonstrate the efficiencies brought about by end-to-end digital refuelling.

‘By working closely with airlines across the world, we continue to identify areas where we can work together with our customers to optimise processes and create shared value. Maximising operational efficiency, as part of the refuelling process, has topped our list for a while. 

‘Through the use of IATA Data standards in our digital refuelling process, we hope to expand and work with more airlines and enable our customers to enhance their operational efficiency.’ 

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