Refuelling from drums and fire prevention

Safety, Refuelling

Tuesday 18 October, 2016

Refuelling from drums is almost invariably done as an 'in-the-field' operation. Many of those who use drums do so often and as a matter of routine. Therefore, the practice of completing the refuelling quickly, and cutting corners, tends to arise.

In fact, there are a number of regulations, orders and time-proven procedures applicable to drum refuelling. Like most standard procedures these are intended, or have been developed, not to make life difficult for those to who they apply, but rather to serve safety and preserve your life and property.

Deficiencies in the refuelling technique cover two basic areas that should be considered, being fuel quality control and fire prevention.


Fuel quality control – consider this system:

Before commencing to refuel, the drum to be used should be checked to ensure that:

(a) its markings and the contents are consistent, and appropriate for the use intended;

(b) it is not aged;

(c) there has been no obvious contamination during storage;

(d) it contains no free water. A positive method, such as water detecting paste/ paper or drain bottle, is a necessity.

Before pumping, the drum should be stood on its end and tilted by placing a piece of wood 50mm thick under one side, so that the large “bung” is on the high side.

(a) Mount the filter/separator or fuel monitor on the side of drum, and bond correctly.

(b) Open the large bung and insert the pump suction stand pipe to the bottom of the drum.

(c) Bond the discharge nozzle to the aircraft before opening the fuel tank. (use of a single car jumper lead for this purpose)

(d) The fuelling nozzle or hose should be inserted as far as possible into the aircraft fuel tank to minimize splash filling.

(e) Commence delivery.


Fuelling from jerry cans and other notes

(a) If a ground earthing point is available, the refuelling equipment and the aircraft should be earthed.

(b) The aircraft should be positioned so that it can be quickly moved to safety in an emergency.

(c) The area in which refuelling operations are being conducted is a 'No Smoking' area.

(d) Persons operating fuelling equipment should not carry matches, cigarette lighters or objects which could constitute an ignition hazard and no person should smoke or use a naked flame within 15metres of the aircraft and the ground fuelling equipment.

(e) Fire extinguishers should be positioned in the vicinity of the aircraft and the fuelling equipment.

(f) Particular attention should be given to possible sources of ignition such as arcing between metallic parts of electrical circuits and components.

(g) Fuelling plant (i.e. the fuelling system) must be fitted with an isolation switch between the battery and electrical services.

(h) Exposed electrical terminals should be protected by insulating boots or covers.

(i) All batteries should be suitably covered to prevent accidental shorting of the cells and should be provided with adequate means of natural ventilation.

(j) All batteries should be suitably covered to prevent accidental shorting of the cells and should be provided with adequate means of natural ventilation.

(k) All connections should be secured with spring or lock washers to prevent accidental loosening of connections while in use.

(l) The fuel should be filtered through a mesh strainer, aviation-type, and water trap funnel.

(m) If refuelling with a pump fitted with a filter, check the filter before and after refuelling for signs of water and other contaminants.

(n) Also note that, if possible, drums should be taken to the aircraft on the tray of a vehicle, not rolled along the ground.  If it is necessary to roll the drums, they must be given the longest settling period possible before refuelling is commenced.


Fire prevention

Getting the correct grade of clean fuel into your aircraft's tanks is half the battle—the other half consists of doing it safely.

The aircraft and the fuelling equipment should not be closer than:

  • 5 metres to any sealed building,
  • 6 metres to any other stationary aircraft,
  • 15 metres to any exposed public area, or
  • 9 metres to any unsealed building for an aircraft with a MTOW not exceeding 5700 kg, and
  • Static leads should be connected to ensure bonding between the drum, the pump and the identified aircraft earth point.

When switching to a fresh drum

(a) Remove nozzle from aircraft fuel tank.

(b) Cap aircraft fuel tank.

(c) Remove bonding and nozzle from aircraft vicinity.

(d) Remove pump from empty drum

(e) Reseal empty drum.

(f) Remove filter/separator or fuel monitor.

(g) Remove bonding.

All individuals involved in drum refuelling are urged to familiarize themselves thoroughly with the advice contained here and, for safety's sake, to put it into practice.