Fueling operations, from Eddie's aircraft.

Eddie Sez:

Most of my experience is with single point refueling and this is certainly not a complete description of the fueling process. Most of what follows is repeated at G450 Normal Procedures & Techniques / Fuel Servicing. Where this page differs is a large amount of material taken from the Standard for Aircraft Fuel Servicing. You can view this document for yourself at the NFPA Website, but the document will cost you $$ so I've copied the good bits here.

  • Bonding Requirements — We "bond" the fuel truck to the aircraft; we no longer "ground" the fuel truck and the aircraft. In fact, "grounding" is no longer permitted. This is easy to do correctly, but even easier to do incorrectly.

  • Radar Restrictions — Most flight manuals have restrictions against using aircraft radar within 300 feet of fueling operations. Those that don't should.

  • Engine Operation During Fueling — You almost never are allowed to fuel while the aircraft engine is operating, but there are exceptions.

  • Fuel Servicing Locations — Can you fuel your aircraft in the hangar? No.

  • Fuel Testing — There are times it will be up to you, the pilot, to test the fuel for contamination.

  • Aircraft Occupancy During Fuel Servicing Operations — Can passengers be on board? Yes, but there are restrictions.

Note: This is all written from the perspective of a pilot trying to fuel his or her aircraft. If you are the person responsible for the fuel truck, I cannot recommend strongly enough picking up a copy of the Standard for Aircraft Fuel Servicing. You can register on the NFPA Website for free and read the document at no cost.

What follows are quotes from the relevant regulatory documents, listed below, as well as my comments in blue.

Bonding Requirements

Wing tip bonding point, from Eddie's aircraft.

Truck to Aircraft

Figure: Fuel truck / aircraft bonding, from Eddie's notes.

We used to speak of "grounding" in that we were required to connect the aircraft electrically to the ground and the fuel truck to the ground. It was considered the safe way to do things until somebody figured there could still be a difference in electrical potential between the airplane and truck. In other words, you could still get a spark between the two. So now we bond the aircraft to the truck. There is no longer a need to ground either.

By the way, I will use "ground" and "bond" interchangeably. Most aircraft flight manuals still say "ground" when they should say "bond."

[NFPA 407, ¶4.1.2] Electrostatic Hazards and Bonding.

[NFPA 407, ¶5.4] Bonding

How Not to Ground / Bond

Photo: Improper bonding example, from Eddie's notes.

This seems to be the most popular place to bond the aircraft. The problem is there is a layer of lubricating grease between that bolt and the airplane. I put an ohm meter between this point and the aircraft and got a reading of 50,000 ohms; meaning the connection was extremely poor. (The standard is 25 ohms or less.)

How Not to Ground / Bond, Part Deaux

Photo: Improper bonding example, from Eddie's notes.

There is clearly a rubber grommet surrounding that strap. I've seen this twice and each time the fuel truck operator seemed embarrassed when I corrected it. I put an ohm meter between this point and the aircraft and got a reading of infinity; meaning there is no connection at all, you might as well leave the cable on the truck.

How to Bond

Photo: Proper bonding example, from Eddie's notes.

We have two proper ground points on our aircraft, this one by the nose and another on the right wing. We keep a spare plug in case the truck only has the clip.

How to be prepared

Photo: External ground plug, from Eddie's notes.

If your airplane has the "ground jacks" but your fuel truck doesn't, you can be prepared. Your mechanic probably has these parts tucked in the back of his tool box, a 1/4" plug with metal handle and a "Remove Before Flight" flag. Keep one of these in your door compartment and you will always be ready for the truck that only has a grounding plug with an alligator clip.

Radar Operation

[NFPA 407, ¶] Aircraft Radar Equipment

Engine Operation During Refueling

[NFPA 407, ¶5.5] Operation of Aircraft Engines and Heaters.]

Fuel Servicing Locations

[NFPA 407, ¶5.10] Aircraft Fuel Servicing Locations.

Fuel Testing

Photo: Russian fuel truck at Yuzhno, courtesy Ivan Luciani.

We tend to rely on the FBO for fuel quality testing but sometimes you aren't familiar with the FBO, sometimes the fuel truck causes you to wonder if those engines will keep running once full thrust is added on takeoff. In either case, you may want to sump and test the fuel in your tanks. Unfortunately there is little written about this in most pilot manuals. What follows comes mostly from Fuel Handling Jet Quality and Test Procedure, published by PetroValue Aviation, a Canadian fuel wholesaler.

White Bucket Test

[Fuel Handling Jet Quality and Test Procedure, ¶1.0]

Clear and Bright Test

[Fuel Handling Jet Quality and Test Procedure, ¶1.1]

Free water contamination in fuel can go undetected using visual test methods. There are number of free water detection kits available for field use such as the Velcon Hydrokit® and the Shell Water Detector®. A water sensitive chemical product is used with the fuel sample which reacts with the suspended water content in the fuel by changing its color.

Other Contaminants

There are several other worrisome contaminants that may escape visual detection. Unfortunately, you are pretty much at the mercy of the fuel provider to do the necessary tests. It is to your advantage to make sure the fueler is busy; there is no better reassurance than knowing airplanes have been successfully flying using the same fuel all day. Here are a few things to worry about and a thought or two about each.

Aircraft Occupancy During Fuel Servicing Operations

[NFPA 407, ¶5.11]

Book Notes

Portions of this page can be found in the book International Flight Operations, Part VIII, Chapter 22.


Fuel Handling Jet Quality and Test Procedure, PetroValue Aviation, 2008-2

National Fire Protection Association www.nfpa.org

Standard for Aircraft Fuel Servicing, 2012 Edition, National Fire Protection Association, NFPA 407, NFPA, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02169-7471