Aircraft refueling is accompanied by hazards which must be managed sufficiently for their mitigation to acceptable levels. In this post, we will discuss how to minimize these hazards and practice safe refueling operations.

The primary risk is unintended ignition of fuel vapor, which can occur by a single spark. Enough quantity of fuel vapor to create a high risk of ignition may result from spillage arising from procedural errors, leaks, aircraft tank venting or failure of pressurized fuel lines. A spark of enough intensity to ignite fuel vapor can result from the discharge of electrostatic energy (static) created either from the movement of the fuel in the aircraft tank during the fuelling process or its accumulation on the surface of aircraft or vehicles.

Fuel movement during refueling may lead to a static charge building up in the fuel. If the charge is of sufficiently high potential, it can cause sparking within the aircraft or the ‘origin’ storage tank. The charge density in the fuel and the possibility of sparks inside the tanks are not affected by bonding.

Accumulation of a surface static charge may occur on either an aircraft or its fuelling vehicle under certain conditions. Electrical bonding must be used to eliminate this hazard. Re-fuelling should not take place during active electrical storms/ Thunderstorms in the immediate vicinity of the airport.

Electrical Bonding

There must be a cable to link to designated points or to clean unpainted metal surfaces on the chosen airframe. Bonding cables should connect the installation delivering the fuel with the aircraft or installation receiving the fuel. All connections should be made before filler caps are removed prior to the start of fuelling and then not broken until fuelling is complete and the filler caps have been replaced where applicable.

Safe Refueling Operations - Avgas connection

PED Use during refueling

There is a risk that a PED (personal electronic device) may create or induce a spark of enough intensity to ignite fuel vapor released during fuelling but it is extremely remote under normal circumstances.

Do not use your mobile phone or any electronic device when refueling.

Safe Refueling Operations - No phones


Refueling with Passengers On Board

As per TVSA Operations manual, no refueling is permitted with passengers on board. We ask you to leave passengers at TVSA Ops Office area to help eliminate distractions while refueling. Once refueling is complete, you may escort your passenger to the aircraft, ensuring they wear a high visibility vest.

Leaving Aircraft Avionics on and Magnetos.

This creates a high risk for a serious incident.

Often during refueling operations, there are many distractions. To ensure this never occurs make sure you always follow your checklist. In a past incident at TVSA, an instructor stopped the student from refueling as he noticed the battery was on and magneto’s still on both. The root cause of this incident was that the student didn’t use the checklist and follow shutdown procedures. Always follow the correct procedure!

Safety Precautions at the Fuel Bowser.

In case of a fuel spill at the bowser we have a Fuel Spill Kit and 2 fire extinguishers. Please make yourself aware of their location before refueling.

Safe Refueling Operations - Spill Kit 1            Safe Refueling Operations - Spill Kit 2           Safe Refueling Operations - Fire


Parking Aeroplane

When parking the aircraft park parallel to the fuel bowser. Make sure you leave the parking brake off. We park parallel in case the breaks fail we don’t crash into the bowser. The parking brake is off so that we can push the plane away from any fire or spill.

Safe Refueling Operations - Refueling Station


For more information on safe refueling operations click here to read the Civil Aviation Order 20.9 Air Service Operations – precautions in refueling, engine and ground radar operations.