Two Misunderstood Words: Economical and Responsible
In today’s economy, attention to the cost of fuel and how much to purchase is a concern to just about everyone. Deciding which gas station has the best price or deciding how much to purchase is a struggle. This struggle flows over into my job as well; I am an Aircraft Dispatcher. My job is to plan every flight I dispatch with the fuel needed to complete each mission regardless of the quantity. In retrospect, I am the one costing the company money, or am I?
Fuel sense is a common term at FedEx nowadays, but to use ‘Fuel Sense’ means to be a good steward of how we buy, plan, and use fuel. If I asked 100 people what it means, I might get 100 unique answers. To me, ‘Fuel Sense’ is the program(s) we initiate and sustain to reduce how much fuel we purchase and carry, yet still meeting safe and legal margins necessary for a flight. While early fuel programs predate my tenure at FedEx, I have been fortunate to be a part of the new dawn of our Fuel Sense campaign initiated in 2007: a blitzkrieg on Fuel Sense if you will.
Where is this all going? When I put gas into my car, I fill it up until the tank is full – topped off. However, dispatching a flight is completely different. My job and responsibility is to plan the most safe, legal, economical, and responsible flight possible. The method of how I achieve this is vastly different from how I fuel my car; I no longer consider topping it off. Rather, with each flight and each calculation, I scrutinize the fuel required by regulations and company standards and adjust my calculations to be the most economical and responsible plan. ‘Responsible’ is a term just as abstract as the term ‘Fuel Sense’. While opinions vary on this topic, I view responsible fuel planning as accounting for every conceivable possibility which could delay the arrival of a flight; when talking to industry counterparts, I deem this FAR 121.647 fuel.
I asked some of my team of dispatchers the question, “What is Fuel Sense to you?” and received a variety of explanations, but the common thread was: safe, legal, economical and responsible. The following represents one answer I received:
Fuel Sense is a philosophy in which the future viability of FedEx as a major corporation is secured from an economic standpoint. The past culture at FedEx allowed for extra fuel on our flights with little accountability or justification. The truth of fuel in the airline world is any nonessential fuel on the aircraft is a risk to the bottom line and an unnecessary expense.
With the Fuel Sense philosophy and initiative, aircraft dispatchers and flight crews are tasked with taking a hard look at their daily procedures and ensuring the proper amount of fuel is on the aircraft. At times carrying a bit of contingency fuel is warranted, but in most situations, the dispatcher is calculating the fuel with the effects of weather, routing and air traffic control holding taken into account. The fuel on board the aircraft is planned to meet all of the known or predicted anomalies of the flight.
Does “Fuel Sense” fit every situation every time? Yes. The captain and aircraft dispatcher review each dispatch release before any FedEx Express flight leaves the gate. They are looking at maintenance health of the aircraft, weather, routing, altitudes, airspace and airport closures as well as political issues which may affect the flight. Only once the captain and aircraft dispatcher agree on the plan do they sign their names releasing the flight. This system of operational control is the foundation for the safe, legal, economical, and responsible protection of each flight and is the cornerstone for our continual pursuit of ‘Fuel Sense’. Some flights require more than others to operate and that’s ok. FedEx hires the best in industry and its our job to carry out this FedEx mission: Fuel Sense.
Every day is different, every flight is different, and every fuel value is different. It is my job to manage my flights, and to be a steward of Fuel Sense at FedEx. Safe – check. Legal – check. Economical – check. Responsible – Absolutely!
Fuel Sense blog posts:
– Fuel Sense: Every Drop Counts at FedEx Express
– Fuel Sense: It Only Works When We Work Together
– Fuel Sustainability: When Does it Make Sense to go Extra Thick?
– Saving Fuel to Defend our Nation
– Fuel Sustainability: Simple Adjustments Save Millions
– How We Overcame Cultural Inertia and Saved Millions
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March 26, 2015
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