Before the COVID-19 pandemic, airline fuel consortia were struggling to keep up with fuel and infrastructure demands for an ever-growing number of flights. However, as air travel has declined, an excess of jet fuel is left over with limited places to store it.

Conversely, the decreased operational demand on infrastructure is creating a unique opportunity for unprecedented Air Operations Area (AOA) access normally limited to nighttime hours or runway shutdowns. Airline fuel consortia can now more efficiently address critical upgrades and maintenance. They can also leverage this time to plan in preparation for a smoother transition when air travel ramps back up.

Challenging Maintenance

Fuel facility operators should focus on maintenance items that are:

  • Difficult to take offline: Normal operations make it difficult to take some components out of service. Tasks like cleaning and inspecting fuel storage tanks can now be completed, if not full due to capacity.
  • Hard to access: By taking advantage of the limited interruption opportunity, everything from valve maintenance and lighting updates to gate work and hydrant lines requiring apron removal can be addressed.
  • Less urgent: Things to consider include items that are usually lower on the priority list, like coating repairs for corrosion control, cathodic protection checks, and organizing or digitizing operation and maintenance manuals.

Planning for the Future

It’s important to work together to start baseline planning efforts, which aid in creating a road map for more efficient future projects. This includes:

  • Facility improvement plans: Strategically laying out a phased future for facility modifications.
  • Drawing coordination: Collecting, organizing and digitizing as-built drawings to create an up-to-date complete facility layout necessary for future efficiency.

In this uncertain landscape, preparing in advance can allow for a more seamless transition for all parties involved once air travel bounces back and fuel usage increases.


Fueling and ramp services are critical to airport operations. The components must be maintained to provide secure, reliable and effective service in the air. 

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Dan Eekhoff is a project manager at Burns & McDonnell. He has over 15 years of experience managing complex engineering projects and has led more than 20 fueling projects throughout the U.S.