Why are we discussing ATF today?? Does it really matter to “COMMON Passengers”.

 As the prices of petrol and diesel hike the common man sweats, this equation is the same with the ATF and the airlines and in order to bear the burden of the hiked price the airline hiked the prices of the airline tickets. This is how it affects the common man. Because about half (50%) of the airlines operating cost is utilized to burn the ATF itself. So who pays for the ATF ? Its us !!

This article has been divided into 6 Parts:
  1. Let’s discover what exactly ATF is
  2. Types of ATF used in Civil Aircrafts
  3. Safety Measures
  4. Price Up and Consequences
  5. Current Scenario
  6. Conclusion

1. Let’s discover what exactly ATF is

Turbine engine use Jet fuel to power the aircraft. It is colorless or straw colored in appearance. Jet A and Jet A-1 are the most commonly used fuels for commercial aviation, with a standardized international specification. The other jet fuel commonly used in civil aviation turbine-engine is Jet B, (cold-weather performance)

1.1 Facts

Due to the pandemic the oil prices reduced by 23% with effect from March 21of 2020. ATF, which is used as a fuel in aeroplanes, now costs less than one-third of the price of petrol used in cars and two-wheelers. A litre of petrol in Delhi comes for Rs 69.59 while jet fuel is priced at Rs 22.54 per litre.

But unfortunately the hike in prices of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) at major Indian cities due to the economic slowdown, despite a fall in global crude prices, set to hurt airlines, as rising costs added to their woes amid curbed traffic due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Aviation turbine fuel accounts for about 35-50% of airlines’ total costs. At a time when domestic airlines were struggling to keep their costs down, the steep rise in ATF prices further stressed airlines’ finances.

1.2 Composition

Jet fuel is defined on the performance specification rather than a chemical compound because the exact composition varies widely based on the petroleum source, thus we cannot defined the jet fuel in terms of Hydrocarbons.

The molecular mass between hydrocarbons (or different carbon numbers) is defined by the requirements for the product, Jet A and Jet A-1, JP-5, and JP-8(used in military aircrafts) which have different freezing and ignition temperature.

ATF is a higher quality fuel and often contains additives to reduce the risk of icing or explosion due to low and high temperature respectively. Weight of the aircraft is an important criterion so correct selection of fuel is important so Specific energy of the fuel plays a very important role in selecting an appropriate fuel to power an aircraft.

2. Types of ATF used in Civil Aircrafts

2.1 Jet A

1950s United states used Jet A specification fuel which is not available outside the United States and a few Canadian airports such as Toronto and Vancouver, whereas Jet A-1 is the standard specification fuel used all over the world other than the former Soviet states where TS-1 is the most common standard.

Differences between Jet A and Jet A-1:

 Jet A-1Jet A
Flash point38 °C (100 °F)
Autoignition temperature210 °C (410 °F)
Freezing point−47 °C (−53 °F)−40 °C (−40 °F)
Max adiabatic burn temperature2,500 K (2,230 °C) (4,040 °F) open air burn temperature: 1,030 °C (1,890 °F)
Density at 15 °C (59 °F)0.804 kg/l (6.71 lb/US gal)0.820 kg/l (6.84 lb/US gal)
Specific energy43.15 MJ/kg (11.99 kWh / kg)43.02 MJ/kg (11.95 kWh / kg)
Energy density34.7 MJ/L [13] (9.6 kWh / L)35.3 MJ/L (9.8 kWh / L)

2.2 Jet B

Jet B is a fuel with lighter composition that is naphtha-kerosene fuel used to enhance cold-weather performance. As it is of lighter composition which makes it more dangerous to handle. For this reason, it is rarely used, except in very cold climates. The fuel is a blend of proximately 30% kerosene and 70% gasoline, it is known as wide-cut fuel. It has a very low freezing point of −60 °C (−76 °F), and very a low flash point as well. It is primarily used in some military aircraft. It is also used in northern Canada, Alaska, and sometimes Russia, because of its low freezing point.

2.3 TS-1

TS-1 is a jet fuel of higher volatility than Jet A-1 (flash point is 28 °C (82 °F) minimum) made to Russian standard GOST 10227 for enhanced cold-weather performance. It has a very low freezing point, below −50 °C (−58 °F).

3. Safety Measures

3.1 Water Contamination

During cruising the temperature of the fuel in the fuel tank decreases to a very low temperature as the pressure in the upper atmosphere. So, it becomes an area of heightened importance that jet fuel be free from water contamination. The water particles in the fuel causes precipitation and deteriorate the combustion process. The separated water then drops to the bottom of the tank, because it is denser than the fuel. Since the water is no longer in solution, it can form droplets which can supercool to below 0 °C. If these supercooled droplets collide with a surface they can freeze and may result in blocked fuel inlet pipes and may be a cause of the flight accidents as in the case of British Airways Flight 38. Removing all water from fuel is impractical; therefore, fuel heaters are usually used on commercial aircraft to prevent water in fuel from freezing.

3.2 Fuel Dispensing

Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) can be refueled in two ways:

  1. Hydrant Pits through refuellers
  2. Bousers

ATF is pumped into an aircraft by two methods:

     1. Overwing

     2. Underwing.

Overwing fuelling is used on smaller planes, helicopters, and piston-engine aircraft and is similar to automobile fuelling – one or more fuel ports are opened and fuel is pumped in with a conventional pump.

Underwing fuelling, also called single-point is used on larger aircraft.

4. Price Up and Consequences

Airlines operate with a very low profit margin, the rising fuel prices, intense competition and inability to pass on spiraling expenses have been negatively impacting them. The latest decision to impose 5 per cent customs duty on ATF, which is a major component of an airline’s operational costs, would add to the woes, according to experts.

Travel portal Yatra.com’s COO (B2C) Sharat Dhall said the imposition of 5 per cent customs duty on ATF is bound to have a “negative impact” on the carriers.”However, the silver lining to the situation is that with the peak season kicking in, we are likely to see increase in prices and strong loads as well. This would provide relief to the airlines,”.

On September 10 2018, SpiceJet’s chief Ajay Singh indicated that fares could be hiked in the next few months. “It is also important that we increase yield and pass on some of the costs increases to the customers. We hope that can happen in the next few months,” he had said. Generally, yield refers to average fare paid per passenger.

On September 4 2018, IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said the steep rise in fuel prices and fall in the rupee value are putting “acute pressure on profits” of airlines in the country. 

So the rise in the ATF price is directly linked to the burden shared by the passengers knowingly or unknowingly. 

5. Current Scenario

As airlines resumed domestic operations after two months of grounding on 25 May 2020, the price of ATF rose substantially during June 2020, which was a bad omen for the airlines.

The steep hike in ATF prices will adversely affect the operations of airline and will make it even worse in this pandemic conditions.

Some related facts are presented below:

  • The price of ATF (aviation turbine fuel), which is a state subject, has been hiked by 16.3% to ₹39,069.87 per kiloliter in New Delhi, according to Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL).
  • This is the second straight increase in ATF price in June after rates were hiked by a record 56.5% in the national capital on 1 June.
  • After price revision on 16 June, ATF prices at major cities like Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai stood at ₹44,024.10, ₹38,565.06, and ₹40,239.63 per kiloliter, respectively, according to IOCL data.
  • Meanwhile, global crude oil prices have fallen by about 35.29% during the last 12 months, according to Bloomberg data.

Since the contribution of fuel cost among the operational cost of the Indian Carries is about 40%-50% which is much higher with the international carries given the ban on the international flights due to pandemic the airlines have lost the opportunity to purchase ATF from outside at a cheaper cost and have to operate with what is available here. With curbed passenger demand amid the pandemic, it becomes difficult to pass on the entire ATF price hike to the passengers as a part of the ticket.

It seems the government doesn’t want to pass the benefit of low oil cost prices to travelers by putting ATF under GST (Goods and Services Tax) for the past few years, but this is yet to happen.

So this how a common man gets affected unknowingly with the hiked ATF price.

THE END

Go where you feel the most alive !!

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