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Refuelling with Passengers on Board

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Category: Ground Operations Ground Operations
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary


This article gives an overview of the safety measures, associated with aircraft refuelling with passengers on board and the duties of the personnel involved. The recommendations are not to be considered exhaustive and shall not take precedence over local rules and procedures.

In general, passengers should be disembarked prior to the commencement of fuelling. However depending on circumstances this might be considered impractical. Refuelling with passengers on board reduces turnaround times and might be required in some special cases (e.g. if a patient is not to be moved during a medical flight).

Accidents associated with refuelling operations are rare. This however should not result in complacency, because incidents, such as fuel spillage, frequently occur. This operation can be hazardous and therefore requires the constant attention of all personnel involved.

Operational standards and procedures

The risks associated with passengers embarking, disembarking or remaining on board the aircraft during fuelling should be considered, and proper procedures to mitigate those risks should be established. These procedures should:

  • be designed to enable the most rapid evacuation of passengers from the aircraft should the need arise;
  • reduce the risk of ignition;
  • ensure the ground area into which passengers would evacuate is kept clear of equipment and obstacles;
  • ensure vehicles attending the aircraft do not impede access to the site by Rescue and Fire Fighting Service (RFFS) vehicles and personnel, or the egress of passengers evacuating the aircraft;
  • include appropriate attendance of RFFS;
  • in the case of medical flights, take into account the ability, or inability, of the patient and attendant staff to effect a rapid evacuation from the aircraft;
  • take into account the ability of those whose mobility is impaired to effect a rapid evacuation from the aircraft;
  • comply with the relevant authority requirements.

Refuelling with passenger on board may or may not be an option depending on the fuel type used:

  • Refuelling with wide cut gasoline type fuel (JET B, JP4 or equivalent) or when a mixture with these types of fuel might occur, is not permitted with passengers boarding, on board or disembarking. In general, this type of fuel can be used as an alternative to Jet A-1 but because it is more difficult to handle (higher flammability) there is only significant demand in very cold climates where its better cold weather performance is important.
  • Refuelling with Kerosene (JET A, JET A1 JP8, TS1, RT, TH or equivalent, in accordance with the approved Aircraft Flight Manual), is allowed when passengers are boarding, on board, or disembarking.

General safety procedures

  • Cabin crew, passengers and other responsible staff should be warned that fuelling will take place and that they must not smoke, or operate electrical equipment or other potential sources of ignition. Operators may permit the use of cellular telephones inside the aircraft during refuelling.
  • Vehicle(s) and personnel from the RFFS should be by the aircraft before the procedure commences.
  • The aircraft illuminated 'NO SMOKING' signs should be on together with sufficient interior lighting to enable emergency exits to be identified. Such lighting should remain on until fuelling operations have been completed. The 'Fasten Seat Belts' signs should be switched off and passengers should be briefed to unfasten their seat belts.
  • Provision should be made, via at least two of the main passenger doors (or the main passenger door plus one emergency exit when only one main door is available), and preferably at opposing ends of the aircraft, for the safe evacuation of passengers in the event of an emergency. Throughout the fuelling operation, each of these doors should constantly be manned by at least one cabin crew member per door.
  • Two-way communication shall be established and shall remain available by the aircraft's inter-communication system or other suitable means between the Ground Engineer, Flight Crew, Authorised Refueller or the ground crew supervising the refuelling and the qualified person on board the aircraft.
  • Ground servicing activities and work within the aircraft, such as catering and cleaning, should be conducted in such a manner that they do not create a hazard or obstruct exits.
  • Inside the aircraft cabin the aisles, cross aisles, all exit areas and exit access areas should be kept clear of all obstructions.
  • Whenever an exit with an inflatable escape slide is designated to meet the requirements for refuelling with passengers on board, the ground area beneath that exit and the slide deployment area should be kept clear of all external obstructions and the Fuelling Overseer and/or relevant ramp staff informed accordingly.
  • The access paths to and from areas where potentially additional slides may be deployed if an evacuation is initiated should remain clear to enable service vehicles and personnel to clear these areas expeditiously if necessary.

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