Industry Innovation: June 2, 2017
How Fuel Cracked the Aircraft on Ground Logistics Conundrum
By: Fuel Transport

Fuel has found a niche in finding solutions for pre-flight problems. Aircraft on Ground (AOG) refers to a circumstance where an aircraft is grounded for a mechanical issue. Because planes are expensive to own and operate, they need to be in the air to generate revenue. Any time, however short, they are on the ground they are burning cash.

Resolving that problem often requires the delivery of a part—sometimes small, sometimes an entire jet engine—and it requires the delivery yesterday. Over the years, AOG solutions have become a specialty of Fuel Transport, and the development of that expertise illustrates how the company is determined to be a different kind of logistics company.

Taking the Call

For passenger airlines, the costs can cascade as schedules are disrupted along the line. For freight operators the danger of lost revenue from a late delivery and possibly a lost client is real. At United Airlines, the AOG team has a motto of “Five Minutes Makes the Difference.”So when an AOG call goes out, the response has to be immediate. That’s how Fuel became AOG specialists—because of the never-say-no attitude embedded in their culture.

Say a call comes in late on a Saturday from a client in Houston with an AOG situation. They need an engine shipped across the country by Monday morning. This is when the Fuel machine kicks into action. The call goes out to the team and they begin to work the problem.

It’s also one of Fuel’s senior people taking that call, getting the team working on it to find the truck (or trucks) and driver (or drivers) to make it happen. “It’s what makes us better than other brokers,” says ERP specialist Mike Gillen. Price is important, of course, as are service and reliability.

“How many companies do you know where senior people are not allowed voicemail?” says Gillen. Fuel’s senior team doesn’t have voicemail because when a customer calls with a problem they don’t want to leave a message. “We take the call, we talk to the customer and we deal with the situation.”

Solving the Unsolvable

But that’s only half of the Fuel AOG story. “One of the big problems in the aerospace sector is that many companies need to move cargo valued into the millions of dollars, but most carriers only have insurance coverage of $200,000 or less,” says Fuel CEO and founder Rob Piccioni.

“Our team would be in the office trying to finding a truck and two drivers available on such short notice—which on its own is tough—but finding ones with appropriate insurance coverage? Impossible,” he says. Piccioni went to his insurance company and worked out a new policy so that Fuel’s insurance would cover any claims on behalf of the client. “It wasn’t easy to do, but now we have a policy that is second to none in the industry, and it gives our clients tremendous peace of mind,” he says.

Most freight brokers in North America are brokers in the truest sense of the word: an intermediary between the carrier and the client and if something goes wrong it’s between the carrier and the client, says Piccioni. “That’s not the way we do it. We take full accountability, full responsibility for our shipments.”

“When you have a question, we are there,” adds Gillen. “When you have a problem, we are there. If you realize at 7 p.m. on Saturday you need an airplane engine in Atlanta delivered to Houston by Monday morning, we will get it there.”

–David Brown