The last decade saw incredible turbulence in the aviation industry. Overwhelmed by soaring fuel prices and the on-going recession many major airlines had to bite the bullet of bankruptcy. Though business is stabilizing gradually, the profit margins still remain slim and operational costs high.
Adding to these woes is the current maintenance procedures required to monitor the aviation fuel quality. The procedure, as we speak, is manual and thus is an operational cost burden for the aircraft operators. The process is not only cumbersome and time consuming but also forces the aircraft to be grounded for long durations thus affecting its utilization.
At the same time, the interest in bio-fuels is growing to address the issue of fossil fuel depletion and to reduce carbon footprint. Experiments are being conducted for adoption of blended fuels. These changes will demand a greater need for advanced testing methodologies to ensure that the fuel entering the aircraft is clean, dry, and safe. The process of fuel testing is set to become more complex and time consuming if alternative solutions are not looked at and implemented.
Air transport is poised for an exponential growth. With airline fuel bills worldwide projected to be USD 216 billion this year (2013) and an overall estimate of 33% of operating cost attributed to fuel; aviation fuel is a big business worldwide. Shell Aviation alone re-fuels one aircraft every 12 seconds across 800 airports in over 40 countries for about 7000 aircrafts. With these numbers, can the airlines continue to function in the same manner as today? The answer is no. With increasing fuel costs, airlines and OEMs are already looking for ways to optimize the maintenance activities without compromising on safety. There is a large ecosystem directly or indirectly connected with aviation fuels. This implies that if airlines deploy a smart cost-effective way to handle fuel, then a large part of the problem is solved.
Hyper Spectral Imaging is a fast and convenient way of checking aviation fuel. Keeping all safety aspects in mind, this process helps check aviation fuel rapidly and accurately to detect the presence of contaminants. I believe in the near future an increasing number of airliners will adopt this method to check fuel while meeting the regulatory norms - thereby preventing accidents, providing longer lifecycle to the aircraft components and reducing the burden of operational cost.
What are your thoughts on the feasibility of adopting this technology to reduce fuel monitoring complexities? Do share views via comments below.