The Risks of Refueling and Defueling Aircraft

While aircraft refueling and defueling is a standard process carried out for aircraft of all types, such procedures are not without their hazards. With the various methods of fueling aircraft, the presence of fuel and vapors always presents a fire hazard in the case of ignition, and pressure refueling also can lead to a risk of explosion. Due to the various risks associated with such procedures, personnel should always be aware of possible dangers and how to best avoid them through safety procedures and proper equipment handling.

With all types of refueling and defueling, one of the biggest risks associated with such procedures is the chance of fuel vapor ignition or the uncontrolled combustion of piston engine or turbine fuels. In the case of spilling, leaks, erroneous handling of procedures, and pressure failures of the aircraft tank or fuel line, fuel vapor can begin to build up around an operational site. If there is a sufficient spark, the buildup of fuel vapor can quickly ignite and create a great safety hazard. While ignition can easily be caused by a source of fire, discharges from electrostatic energy can also be enough to create an ignition. Electrostatic charges can be generated in a number of ways, including moving fuel, maintenance workers rubbing on surfaces, and other sources. As such, electrical bonding and bonding cables are common to ensure safety and ground equipment.

A bonding cable is what is used to link the receiving aircraft to the equipment providing or taking fuel for the means of safety. To ensure that ignition is best prevented, the bonding cable should have all connections established prior to the removal of aircraft tank filler caps. Additionally, the bonding cable should not be removed until fueling is complete, the fuel hoses are removed, and all filler caps are reattached. Whenever one is carrying out a refueling procedure, neither the fueling vehicle or aircraft should be bonded to a fuel hydrant pit.

As personal electronic devices always have a possibility of creating sparks, they should never be present in the area of fuel operations if possible. While it is hard to test whether a spark created from such a device would be sufficient to ignite fuel vapor, it is still highly discouraged to ensure more safety. Mobile phones in particular are the most dangerous, due to the fact that their batteries have presented issues in the past for certain models.

If refueling is conducted while there are passengers present in the aircraft, special safety procedures must be implemented for protection. Generally, an emergency evacuation plan should always be ready and personnel should follow guidelines set forth in operation manuals and cabin crew manuals. Additionally, all crew members should be aware of their roles in evacuation procedures, and the positioning of exits should be accounted for. While airliners may want to minimize the time for turnovers at the gate of an airport, having exiting passengers during refueling can complicate evacuation procedures. During such instances, one flight crew member should remain within the flight deck for safety.

The defueling procedure for aircraft is rarely conducted, often only carried out for maintenance, inspection, or decontamination. As the defueling process can pose additional hazards, all crew members involved should be thoroughly knowledgeable about the process and equipment involved before beginning the process. Furthermore, the fuel taken from the aircraft tank should never be reused for another aircraft, and a separate dedicated storage tank may be relied upon for removal.

By following common safety procedures and implementing the proper use of filler caps, bonding cables, fuel hoses, and other equipment, aircraft refueling and defueling procedures can be carried out with minimal risk. At ASAP Fulfillment, we are a streamlined sourcing platform for customers to find high-quality refueling and defueling parts, aircraft standard parts, aircraft bearings, aircraft fastener parts, NSN parts, aviation parts, and IT hardware parts for various military and civilian applications. We invite you to explore our expansive part listings at your leisure, and our team of industry experts are readily available 24/7x365 to assist you through the purchasing process as needed.


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