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Aircraft Fuel Systems (Part Three)

in Aircraft Systems

Fuel Grades

Aviation gasoline (AVGAS) is identified by an octane or performance number (grade), which designates the antiknock value or knock resistance of the fuel mixture in the engine cylinder. The higher the grade of gasoline, the more pressure the fuel can withstand without detonating. Lower grades of fuel are used in lower-compression engines because these fuels ignite at a lower temperature. Higher grades are used in higher-compression engines, because they ignite at higher temperatures, but not prematurely. If the proper grade of fuel is not available, use the next higher grade as a substitute. Never use a grade lower than recommended. This can cause the cylinder head temperature and engine oil temperature to exceed their normal operating ranges, which may result in detonation.


Several grades of AVGAS are available. Care must be exercised to ensure that the correct aviation grade is being used for the specific type of engine. The proper fuel grade is stated in the AFM/POH, on placards in the flight deck, and next to the filler caps. Auto gas should NEVER be used in aircraft engines unless the aircraft has been modified with a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The current method identifies AVGAS for aircraft with reciprocating engines by the octane and performance number, along with the abbreviation AVGAS. These aircraft use AVGAS 80, 100, and 100LL. Although AVGAS 100LL performs the same as grade 100, the “LL” indicates it has a low lead content. Fuel for aircraft with turbine engines is classified as JET A, JET A-1, and JET B. Jet fuel is basically kerosene and has a distinctive kerosene smell. Since use of the correct fuel is critical, dyes are added to help identify the type and grade of fuel. [Figure 6-32]

Aviation fuel color-coding system

Figure 6-32. Aviation fuel color-coding system.

In addition to the color of the fuel itself, the color-coding system extends to decals and various airport fuel handling equipment. For example, all AVGAS is identified by name, using white letters on a red background. In contrast, turbine fuels are identified by white letters on a black background.

Fuel Contamination

Accidents attributed to powerplant failure from fuel contamination have often been traced to:

  • Inadequate preflight inspection by the pilot.
  • Servicing aircraft with improperly filtered fuel from small tanks or drums.
  • Storing aircraft with partially filled fuel tanks.
  • Lack of proper maintenance.

Fuel should be drained from the fuel strainer quick drain and from each fuel tank sump into a transparent container, and then checked for dirt and water. When the fuel strainer is being drained, water in the tank may not appear until all the fuel has been drained from the lines leading to the tank. This indicates that water remains in the tank, and is not forcing the fuel out of the fuel lines leading to the fuel strainer. Therefore, drain enough fuel from the fuel strainer to be certain that fuel is being drained from the tank. The amount will depend on the length of fuel line from the tank to the drain. If water or other contaminants are found in the first sample, drain further samples until no trace appears.

Water may also remain in the fuel tanks after the drainage from the fuel strainer has ceased to show any trace of water. This residual water can be removed only by draining the fuel tank sump drains.

Water is the principal fuel contaminant. Suspended water droplets in the fuel can be identified by a cloudy appearance of the fuel, or by the clear separation of water from the colored fuel, which occurs after the water has settled to the bottom of the tank. As a safety measure, the fuel sumps should be drained before every flight during the preflight inspection.


Fuel tanks should be filled after each flight or after the last flight of the day to prevent moisture condensation within the tank. To prevent fuel contamination, avoid refueling from cans and drums.

In remote areas or in emergency situations, there may be no alternative to refueling from sources with inadequate anti-contamination systems. While a chamois skin and funnel may be the only possible means of filtering fuel, using them is hazardous. Remember, the use of a chamois will not always ensure decontaminated fuel. Worn-out chamois will not filter water; neither will a new, clean chamois that is already water-wet or damp. Most imitation chamois skins will not filter water.

 
1 Mohammed Riyaz July 5, 2011 at 8:49 am

Can you tell me, if the bulk fuel temperature is low, what might be the reason for it, how this can be prevented? Because I’m writing a fault isolation task for BULK FUEL TEMP (C) message…
So, kindly, help me…

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