American Creates New Model for JFK Fueling Systems

Kathy Hamilton
Published in: 

American Airlines unveiled its new $1.3 billion Terminal 8 at New York City's JFK International Airport last year with little mention of the new, state-of-the-art fueling system it completed at the same time. To be sure, the $31 million fueling system is far less glamorous than the passenger terminal, with its 89,000-square-foot lobby and 65-foot ceilings. But it's certainly just as integral to customer service.

According to the airline, the new system is endowed with the latest technology to ensure safety and reliability and was designed to support future expansion of aircraft operations. Its computerized monitoring and controls, failsafe redundancy and emergency fuel shut-off system are already drawing praise.

Lewis Walling, American's senior project manager of Corporate Real Estate, describes how the new fueling system works: "Each gate has at least two hydrant pits - 69 in all to serve American's wide variety of aircraft. Fuel carts at the pits filter the fuel and regulate its flow into the aircraft. Fuel system pressure is regulated at both the carts and the fuel farm. The system can maintain pressure and fuel flow, regardless of how many planes are fueling, and it's all automatic."

The system is equipped with a complex network of manifolds and valves that allows the airline to shut down one part of the system without affecting operations in other areas. The entire system can also be shut down "in an instant," notes Walling.

Safeguards at the fuel farm include a backup for the filtration system, which prevents the infiltration of contaminants and the accumulation of water.

Before being placed into service, the fuel mains and distribution lines had to be flushed.

Slow Start

Three years into construction, American's mega-project stalled in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. JFK International, under the ownership of the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey (PANYNJ), was the nation's first airport to shut down after the attacks.

American was left with a reduced budget and increased requirements for the safety and security of its new terminal. Argus Consulting, engineer of record for the terminal expansion and fueling system replacement, made design changes for years after the 9/11 attacks. Jon Currier, vice president of Argus, notes that the firm's long-standing relationship with American and Meccon Industries, general contractor for the fueling system replacement, facilitated the multitude of revisions.

According to Meccon president John Curran, the Terminal 8 fuel system was similar in magnitude to other projects the firm has completed, but it took substantially longer - 9 years - because of the many design revisions. The phasing that was necessary to maintain American's operations during construction also extended the duration.

"The project went on so long, we lost personnel to retirement," notes Meccon project manager Jeremy Curran, who led field operations.

Despite significant delays and design modifications, the fueling system was completed on schedule. "The scope of the fueling system changes and the novelty of several of the approaches stretched the boundaries of fueling at JFK," says Currier. "Working with The Port Authority of New York/New Jersey to integrate innovative and unique concepts into the design was key to the project's overall success."

Going Underground

Subsurface construction at JFK was particularly challenging because groundwater there is just a few feet below the surface. In addition, on-site soil contamination from hydrocarbon compounds is widespread.

New and existing fuel lines.

Installing a concrete isolation valve

American's environmental consultants, SAIC and URS Corporation, worked around the clock to clear the way for underground construction. SAIC provided oversight for dewatering activities and worked in tandem with utility contractors to ensure that contaminated soils were properly characterized and managed. SAIC and URS performed complex dewatering evaluations, relying upon computerized fate-and-transport modeling to ensure that contamination was not drawn in from off-site or extended into deeper groundwater. URS designed groundwater treatment facilities to support the dewatering operations.

Installing fuel main for the new, midfield concourse.

Lewis Walling is responsible for the company's real estate due diligence. Walling was particularly impressed with the effectiveness and professionalism of the SAIC-URS team. "We didn't lose any time in construction due to the cleanup activities," he recalls. "The environmental work was always ahead of the underground construction. Even as competitors, these two worked as a team to get the site certified 'clean.' "

By completing the project in phases, contractors enabled American to maintain fueling operations throughout construction.

During the first phase of work, an existing concourse was demolished to make way for a new 18-gate midfield concourse, which was connected to the main terminal via a tunnel. Existing jet fuel lines, including primary fuel mains serving Jet Blue's Terminal 6 and British Airways' Terminal 7, were relocated to make way for the tunnel. New jet fuel lines for American's new concourse were also installed, tested, commissioned and connected to existing active fuel mains.

Installing new fuel line.

Subsequent phases involved installing and replacing additional underground jet fuel lines, installing concrete isolation valve vaults, upgrading the pumping control system and installing an emergency fuel shut-off (EFSO system) that connects all 36 gates to the remote pumping system and a security system.

Meccon, Argus and Allied Aviation, JFK's fueling contractor, made new connections to more than 35 operating fuel lines and recovered more than 100,000 gallons of fuel from existing lines. Before being placed into service, the fuel mains and distribution lines had to be flushed. "Fuel quality is the No. 1 priority," Currier stresses. "Every existing line we cut and every new line we added had to be flushed with fuel to thoroughly clean it." Argus and Allied recovered the fuel via a loop that recirculated it through a filtration system and then into holding tanks. All recovered fuel had to meet American Society for Testing and Materials specifications before being returned to JFK's storage facility.

Achieving Redundancy

Failsafe redundancy and a state-of-the-art EFSO system are two of the fuel system's standout features. "American created a fuel loop system that's a miracle of manifolding," raves Jim Steven, program director for JFK Plant Structures and Airport Development.

Jeremy (l.) and John Curran, Meccon Industries.

As the property owner, PANYNJ is responsible for fuel lines that extend from JFK's fuel farms to airlines' gates.

Typically, the tenant airlines are responsible for fuel lines and delivery systems on their ramps. Given American's determination to achieve a level of redundancy that exceeds the norm, pumping system changes were necessary at JFK's fuel farm.

Airlines aren't typically given access to JFK's fuel farm, but PANYNJ was persuaded by American's innovative design. "American paid to go onto our fuel farm and make the upgrades they needed," says Steven. "We don't let just anyone in. This was a cooperative effort between The Port Authority of New York/New Jersey and what we perceived to be a highly professional team with the expertise to make significant improvements to JFK's fueling system."

Facts & Figures

Project: Hydrant Fueling System Replacement

Location: JFK International Airport

Airport Owner: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Tenant/Project Proponent: American Airlines

Design/Engineer of Record: Argus Consulting

Construction Manager/General Contractor: Meccon Industries, Inc.

Into-plane Fueling Contractor: Allied Aviation

Environmental Assessment/Remediation: URS Corporation

Dewatering and Soil Remediation/Management: SAIC

Cost: $31 million (excluding environmental assessment and remediation)

Design/Construction: Approximately 9 years

Benefits: Expanded aircraft fueling capacity, enhanced fueling efficiency and reliability, improved customer service, enhanced safety and security

A new control system to replace the previous 1963 relay logic operation system was a key element to the overall project. The new Programmable Logic Control (PLC) is a real-time system designed for multiple inputs and outputs. It is built to withstand temperature extremes, electrical interference and the effects of vibration.

PANYNJ hopes other airlines will follow American's lead at JFK. "We're encouraging other airlines to explore making comparable upgrades to their fueling systems," states Steven. "More efficient and reliable fueling enhances their ability to improve passenger service, and a redundant system increases safety and security.

"The industry has its eye on American Airlines and JFK."

Above: In-process construction: a pumping system manifold including ultrasonic meter and field displays.(Source: Argus Consulting) Above to the right: Pressure control valve and tubing assembly, which employs pilots to manage surges in the fuel line, pressure control and other hydraulic tasks. (Part of the same T8/9 pumping system manifold shown in preceding picture 233, but much nearer one of the pumps.) Below: JFK’s new fueling system’s emergency fuel shut-off system is a “miracle in manifolding.”

Fuel Operations

2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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