What Does a Gate Agent Do?
Airports · 5 min read
Although a gate agent's job might seem like a self explanatory position, it entails a lot more than you can imagine.
There are so many unsung heroes and heroines who are responsible for the running of aviation and airport operations in a safe and efficient manner. One of these groups of people are the aircraft fuelers, whose job title may not be as popular as the other ground support crew, especially amongst the end-users of the aircraft, the passengers, yet they constitute an integral part of fuel handling for purposes of fuel loading requirements onto the aircraft.
The role of an aircraft fueler is primarily to ensure that all the aircraft (inbound aircraft and outgoing aircraft) of an airline are fueled in a timely and efficient manner such that the fleet schedule requirements are met. An aircraft fueler is required to work against all the odds such as climbing ladders to reach high-level fueling caps to fuel aircraft, and even brave harsh weather conditions like rain or snow just to get the job done. However, they may sometimes be involved in defueling aircraft as and when is needed, for example, whenever there is excess fuel in the aircraft’s fuel tanks.
Another role of an aircraft fueler is to have an accurate record of all fuel transactions done, including those involving defueling aircraft. Just like cashiers, aircraft fuelers must keep records of fuel quantity supplied against the amount paid for such quantities by filling fuel transaction forms. This includes issuing invoices to airlines, which can sometimes be through the management, for the period of service provision.
To fuel aircraft, aircraft fuelers use fuel trucks, which have many accessories that aid in fueling such as fuel pipes and nozzles as well as fueling hoses. The aircraft fueler must troubleshoot and handle equipment safely to ensure the correct functioning of the machinery and. The machinery must also be checked for proper maintenance such as calibration of the fuel gauges to ensure that only the required fuel quantity is loaded onto the aircraft fuel system.
Notably, excess fuel into the fuel tanks would limit the aircraft’s aerodynamic properties whereas planning fuel incorrectly could be detrimental for the desired route or flight requirements.
Similarly, from an economic perspective, aircraft fuelers would not desire to be paid less for more fueling services provided nor would an airline want to pay more for fewer fueling services received. All these make it necessary to have quality control checks on equipment.
This is yet another role of an aircraft fueler. He or she ensures that the machinery used to fuel aircraft is clean and devoid of any dirt that could contaminate the fuel.
Other roles may be assigned to an aircraft fueler such as assisting with lavatory and ramp services or the supply of equipment. Quite often it is expected of aircraft fuelers to know how to handle and operate ground service equipment that might not be directly linked to aircraft fueling. These roles may be unique to each group of successful new hires based on location or the hiring company’s full job description.
Yes, this is a competitive job and it would be an understatement to simply say that it is a good job. However, each job title has its challenges and that of an aircraft fueler is no exception. For instance, an ideal aircraft fueler works an irregular shift job type, in all weather conditions including rainy, snowy, very hot days, and cold nights.
There are also many outdoor activities because airlines fuel aircraft frequently along the ramps or parking and the fuelers operate fuel trucks away from the hangars.
Further, an aircraft fueler job is physically demanding, making it over 94% male-dominated. For example, an aircraft fueler repeatedly lifts heavy fuel hoses usually over 60 pounds in weight while climbing high ladders to reach each respective aircraft’s fuel panel.
Depending on the position of the fuel panel, an aircraft fueler may be required to bend, stretch, or squat when he or she wants to fuel aircraft. Because they operate fuel trucks, an aircraft fueler would typically make 25 or so trips to and from the fuel trucks, with subsequent 30 trips up and down the ladders when connecting or disconnecting the fuel nozzles.
Even more, aviation fuel is hazardous and toxic to human health. Whenever an aircraft fueler inhales the fumes in the line of duty, he or she is potentially exposed to such hazards. Additionally, the fuel is highly volatile and failure to provide ground for the fuel trucks or aircraft as recommended in the operating procedures could electrostatically ignite the fumes and cause fire and subsequent explosion.
While an aircraft fueler does not have to provide excellent customer service or understand all mechanisms of how to pilot and control an aircraft, they still need to adhere to certain procedures and apply proper safety standards in their work as their work contributes to overall flight safety. Aircraft fuelers always need to know about and keep safety related equipment at hand, fully understand how airport fueling equipment works and stick to airport regulations.
Aircraft fueler jobs are equally competitive and rewarding. An average aircraft fueler makes a vesting hourly pay, about 14 USD per hour, with a median salary of $19 per hour. However, just as in most careers, a job search is a daunting task when one sets the bars quite high, particularly with regards to salary expectations.
As such, the pay in aircraft fueler jobs is based on experience and skills and hours worked, with the pay ranging from $11 to $19 hourly for entry-level up to highly skilled and experienced personnel.
The success of personnel in most careers requires the integration of both soft and hard skills. An aircraft fueler should at least have the following soft skills when going about the role:
1. Efficiency; to allow for minimum aircraft ground time and increase productivity.
2. Punctuality; to enhance fleet dispatch reliability.
3. Good oral and written communication skills; to facilitate two-way communication with the ground traffic control center and for good customer service.
4. Problem-solving skills; for quick decision-making.
On the other hand, an aircraft fueler should undergo training in different aviation courses to acquire technical or hard sets of skills to ensure safety. Some of these areas that aircraft fuelers should have competence in are but are not limited to, aircraft systems, flight security, ground handling, dangerous goods, (HAZMAT), quality assurance and control, and engine maintenance.
For one to qualify to be employed he or she must have attained the minimum age of employment within that jurisdiction. This is mostly 18 years of age – a similar age requirement for an aircraft fueler.
Additionally, one must have a valid state driver’s license accompanied by a clean driving record. A high school diploma or its equivalent is normally an educational requirement, though one may choose to venture into aircraft fueling through career changes. Further, a fuel handling certification or an airport certification, because this is an airport job, must be obtained before practicing.
With these prerequisites, one can conduct a job search and activate job alerts for aircraft fueler jobs. They can then have the latest job alert via email from most hiring companies, and make their applications.
Internal growth opportunities, for example, from airline service technicians, may also offer career pathways into aircraft fueler jobs.
Potential candidates have the best shot at landing an aircraft fueler job at busy airports and airports in popular destinations such as Los Angeles, New York or even Salt Lake City. Airports in destinations like this are usually traffic-heavy and so there is always a need to fuel aircraft, carry out maintenance or provide de-icing service.
Aircraft fuelers are essential in providing ground support to aviation and airport operations. Despite working in a fast-paced environment, they promptly perform fueling on aircraft amongst other support activities, which raises the need to begin promoting high performers of the industry at greater extents than is currently. If you are looking to work in a vital aviation role, an aircraft fueler’s career might be a great idea for your first or next airport job!
Airports · 5 min read
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