John Pitts – A Local Success Story

With over 40 years’ experience of engineering, John Pitts has proven to be an expert in his field; Aviation Fuel Facilities.

The Early Years

After gaining his degree, John began his career with a globally renowned oil company dealing with all aspects of aviation fuel. From his first role in marketing, he quickly moved to the challenging position of Shift Manager in charge of a large workforce airside at London Heathrow Airport, dealing with both the operational aspects of keeping fuel moving efficiently as well as to operational standard. Paul Knight is a long-standing colleague and recalls when he met John;

“We first met at Shell Aviation Heathrow in the mid 1980s. John was brought in as a Shift Manager and was the Lead person on my shift; I was the Apron supervisor.  John and I very quickly clicked and carried out numerous trips to the airside fuelling activity, for both problem solving and any other operational challenges that occurred… there were many. Shell had a contract at that time with Nigerian Airways. The flight was very often delayed and the customer was often on Credit stop, collecting cash before fuel delivery began happened frequently, further delaying the flight!”

The Shift Manager role provided him with the experience and knowledge required to become a leader within Shell for all aspects of aviation fuel facility engineering worldwide. During this period of his career John worked in many different countries, assessing the aviation fuel facility engineering needed for each environment, which stood him in good stead for when he later branched out on his own.

John stayed with Shell for 11 years before being appointed General Manager of the Aviation Fuel Supply Company at Hong Kong International Airport in 1996. He immediately became CEO of a joint venture with multiple oil corporations and airlines as they embarked on a new initiative; Open Access Fuel Supply. John was involved with the structuring of Open Access and he was responsible for the construction and commissioning of the world’s largest single aviation fuel infrastructure investment at that time (late 90s). His work on this project continued after the opening of the new Hong Kong International Airport and John oversaw the operational aspects of the airport for a further year.

Next Steps

John stayed in Hong Kong following its historic handover to China in 1997 and, given his unique position in terms of operational, technical and commercial knowledge in his specialty; aviation fuel he established his own company in 1999. eJet International is an independent Aviation Fuel Specialist company that assists airports and their operators worldwide in the technical, commercial and operational aspects of fuel farms, hydrant systems and fuel delivery systems. John says “I was in HK at the time and I felt that HK was the right place to be because it was very entrepreneurial. The Far East was and still is, much more look ahead and dynamic than Europe and at the time it was home, so it was easy for me to set up a business there.” John’s first project at that time was in Pakistan with a second in Manilla working in conjunction with Shell. It was at this point that John felt that he wanted to open the scope for more opportunities and began to venture across the world.

The journey has definitely encountered its fair share of challenges but with careful analysis and placement, eJet has thrived and has now been involved with many projects since its creation, covering most of the planet including Africa, Asia and the Middle-East, Europe, Australia, and South America. He successfully relocated the company to the UK in 2010 and when asked about his favourite project to date, he responded by saying “Dublin: the client was good to work with and the project was concluded on time and with few problems”.  The ready availability of Guinness might have also been the deciding factor in this choice.  Needless to say, with the variety of locations that projects and meetings have been conducted in, John’s airmiles have certainly racked up over the years.

The Engineer…

So who is John Pitts? We asked his colleagues about the man, as well as the engineer, and this is what they had to say….

John is a true professional; a highly intelligent and knowledgeable engineer who takes pride in every aspect of his work. He is keen to learn about new technologies and dedicated to helping move the aviation industry forwards whilst maintaining the highest of standards, both in terms of safety for all, and service to Clients. Whilst John is a businessman through and through, he is observant, humorous and kind natured and probably one of the nicest chaps you could hope to meet.

John is a well-respected member of the aviation community. He can frequently be found delivering talks at symposium around the globe, most notably for the IATA Fuel Forum which are held biannually in different locations, or online throughout the Covid 19 pandemic. John is a Fellow of both the IMechE and the Energy Institute and he sits on the board of the Ethics and Principles Committee.  He is an avid supporter of the potential of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

With the global commitment to the reduction of CO2 in to the atmosphere, and the recent announcement that the UK government will be providing £180 million to support and develop SAF production plants, John is championing the introduction of SAF to airports and assisting them with the necessary alterations and long-term impacts this will have for both the planet, and the air travel industry. With the latest target for the UK’s aviation industry to be using 10% SAF fuel by 2030, his passion for this topic lead him to write his recent article ‘Sustainable aviation fuel is a numbers game’ and have his opinion considered in a recent UK Government consultation. John’s article can be found on the eJet website under the Latest News tab.

The Man…

Outside of work, John is a keen motor enthusiast and owns classic vehicles, one of which holds great sentimental value to him and carries all of its original parts. Talking of the early years in their working relationship, Paul Knight recounts;

“John once invested in a Land rover fitted with a monstrous engine. As we are both car mad we took a ride off of the airport to see what its performance was like… it was splendid. The only slight drawback was that it had a distinct lack of brakes, which made for some interesting evasive driving!”

He loves a good game of Rugby and is a long-standing supporter of the local team – Exeter Chiefs. John is passionate about mechanical engineering and is never happier than when at home in his workshop making some new contraption.  John’s wife has reliably informed us that the latest project is to build his own jet engine. That is certainly a project and a half, but knowing John, we are highly confident that, just like everything else he approaches, he will succeed with this too.

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