Aviation Fuel Guide

Aviation fuel is a highly specialized petroleum-based fuel used to power aircraft. A petroleum cocktail of sorts, the fuel is typically mixed with other chemicals to curb things like icing and explosion due to high temperatures. It’s also generally of a higher quality than fuels used in less critical applications like heating and road transport.

Within this specialized category of fuel, there a few major subcategories that power certain engines:

  • Avgas is used in spark-ignited combustion engines, typically those that use reciprocating or Wankel engines. There many separate avgas types and many are dyed certain colors to differential themselves from other aviation fuel types
  • Jet fuel is straw-colored combustible similar to diesel fuels and is typically used in either compression ignition engines or gas-turbine engines. Within the military specifically there, are is a very wide range of fuel types used for certain vehicles.
  • Biofuels are new fuels made via the Biomass to liquid method (like sustainable aviation fuel and E85/Biodiesel) and certain straight vegetable oils can also be fuel aviation vehicles
  • CNG & LNG (Compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas)

Generally aviation fuel arrives at the airport via pipeline systems, from which point it is dispensed into a tank truck to be later dispensed into aircraft on the tarmac. Some airports filling stations similar to those found on roadways that aircraft can taxi up to, while some airports may have permanent piping leading to parking areas for large aircraft. But in any of this cases of dispensing, having the proper materials on hand can make for a safe and productive fueling environment. Aircraft need a lot of fuel so pumping systems with accurate readings and high outputs are vital, as well as hoses that can handle high levels of pressure of high quality fuels.

Smaller planes, helicopters, and all piston-engine aircraft fuel via the “overwing” method, which is similar to standard car fueling because a fuel port (could also be multiple) is opened and fuel is pumped in via a conventional nozzle. Underwing fueling, also called single-point refueling or pressure refueling (where not dependent on gravity), however, is used on larger aircraft and for jet fuel exclusively. Make sure you have the right nozzle for the right plane by shopping with JME.

Fueling operations can be very dangerous if proper care is not taken. As an aircraft flies through the air, static electricity can accumulate and if this is not dissipated before fueling, an electric arc could occur and ignite fuel vapors. To avoid this, aircraft should be electrically bonded to the fueling apparatus before fueling begins and should not be disconnected until after fueling is complete. Some regions require the aircraft and/or fuel truck to be grounded too. Pressure fueling systems for underwing fueling incorporate a dead man's switch to preclude unmonitored operation.


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