Hydrant (Commercial Ramp) vs. Tanker Fuel (GA Ramp): What You Need to Know
For business aircraft operators, fuel tanker and hydrant options have their pros and cons, depending on your particular mission, aircraft type and destination. While hydrant fueling may be an ideal low-cost option for certain tech-stop scenarios, tanker fuel usually involves less repositioning in cases of destination stops. Best practice is to know all your options and to work with your aviation fuel reseller, and a local ground handler, to source the most efficient method of fueling for all destination and tech stops.
Here are some considerations when choosing between tanker or hydrant fuel options:
1. Know best practice for tanker deliveries
Although the majority of the locations do not require prior notification, it is always recommended where possible to pre-order your fuel 24-48 hours in advance. Every once in a while, the wrong fuel supplier will attempt to hook up to your aircraft, so be vigilant in reconfirming the correct fueler when on the field. A good handling agent/Fixed Base Operator (FBO) should assist you in this task. Tankers fill up at fuel farms, and fuel is delivered by an into-plane agent. Depending on the size of your aircraft, and fuel volume required, the tanker may have to return to the farm to refill. On occasion, this has been known to take 1-2 hours, so it is best to avoid unnecessary delays by confirming fuel volume in advance and allowing adequate time by fueling on arrival or allowing adequate time on departure.
2. Know hydrant fuel etiquette
In most cases, hydrant fuel is taken on a commercial ramp. It is advised to plan your uplift well in advance by coordinating with the into-plane agent on the field, as the scheduled commercial airliners will usually be the agent’s priority. In the majority of locations, you need to reposition to the commercial ramp from the General Aviation (GA) area. This will have to be done under your own power or by means of a tow, as the commercial ramp is located on the other side of the field. In some circumstances, this procedure may require the crossing of the live runways, so it is important that you factor this into your planning, as this procedure can take up to 1-2 hours one-way. There may also be additional costs in having the aircraft towed or the extra fuel burned when running the auxiliary power unit (APU).
3. Tanker fuel pros and cons
At airfields where dedicated GA truck services are available, you will often receive a more efficient service than you would if you had to reposition to a commercial ramp. Although there may be a premium for this service, it does offer convenience and peace of mind. On a small number of airfields where there may be a GA service available, you will have to wait for a truck to reposition from the commercial area, but this time may be no longer than having to reposition and wait behind the commercial airline traffic.
4. Consider hydrant fuel pros and cons
Hydrant fuel is usually cheaper than tanker-delivered fuel or GA-dedicated fuel and may be better suited for fueling larger aircraft. Hydrant fuel can be convenient for tech stops, but only when you are able to operate solely on the commercial ramp. If any part of your turnaround requires you to operate through the GA ramp, hydrant fuel loses its convenience, as you need to reposition from GA to hydrant. You will not be able to accomplish other services such as an in-flight catering delivery in the hydrant areas, and there may be delays with hydrant fueling, if it has not been set up in advance.
5. Anti-icing (Prist) additives may or may not be an option
Prist additives are usually not an option with hydrant fueling. Operators are advised to supply and add their own Prist. When fueling with a tanker, Prist can usually be mixed with the jet fuel if advance notice is given.
6. Always provide advance notice and consider credit options
Advance notification for jet fuel uplifts is advised in order to avoid delays and ensure desired fuel quantity is available when you need it. This is especially important at busy airfields during peak hours of commercial activity. Be aware that paying with cash or consumer credit cards will generally give you the posted price. For the best jet fuel pricing, always use an aviation fuel card or contract fuel release.
7. Fueling options may be limited at smaller airfields
Hydrant fuel is often not available at smaller airports with limited commercial traffic. When setting up tanker fuel at smaller airfields, be aware that there may only be a couple of trucks available, and these may be dedicated to an FBO, ground handler or exclusive supplier. Always check with your ground handler or fuel reseller on what the circumstances at these airfields are, as they are the best people to advise about these situations.
8. Consider tips to smooth the fuel uplift experience
Tanker and hydrant fuel sources often work during specific hours. After-hour fueling is usually available, but for an additional charge. To avoid aircraft fueling delays and service issues, plan on advanced notice where possible, but keep in mind that there may be some unpredictable situations that may arise. Always know who your contract supplier and into-plane agent is and coordinate with your ground handler to avoid delays. Inform the tower or airport authority for guidance on fueling locations or pits/piers for hydrant fuel.
9. Always have a “Plan B” – just in case
You may encounter fuel shortages or rationing at your destination. Nice (LFMN) often has limited jet fuel on weekends, as deliveries aren’t made on the weekend, and certain Caribbean islands ration fuel from time to time during high season. So, be prepared to fuel on arrival to tanker fuel, or to fuel from multiple sources at the same airport when possible. Work with your aviation fuel consultant to plan backup methods of fuel payment in case there are credit issues, or in the event you need to use a different fueler on landing. For example, if a contracted fueler is severely delayed due to commercial fuel commitments, you may want to have the dedicated GA truck as a backup plan.
There are different procedures, advance notification requirements and operational nuances associated with tanker and hydrant fueling methods. Consider cost and service issues – as well as operational restrictions – when making the choice between tanker and hydrant fueling at your given destinations.
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