The Deadman


Story as told by a line technician

By Randy Harrison, Quality Assurance Manager, AVFUEL

April 2000

It was a typical December day at the airport, cold, a little wind, and two planes were waiting for fuel as I was re-bulking the jet refueler from the storage tanks. I got the call on the radio that a quick-turn was landing and to get finished ASAP.

To speed things up I wedged the on/off (deadman) control I was holding in the fence, to finish my paperwork. I didn't think it was any big deal since I've seen the other guys who trained me do it, and I was standing right next to it.

But then I heard a funny noise, so I bent over to look at the connection and just as I did, fuel started spraying up into my face. By the time I wiped the fuel from my face and realized fuel was still pumping all over, the spill on the ground looked like a mini-lake.

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As a quality assurance manager for a fuel supply company, I all too often hear stories like this one. Unfortunately, visual observations of overriding deadman controls happen more often then necessary.

An on/off control (deadman) is a requirement of the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) for all bulk loading and single-point fueling equipment.

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The following are recommendations that may help keep things safe.
• First, a definition ...
Deadman control: a device that needs a positive continuing action by a person to allow the flow of fuel.
• Make sure proper training is in place (some FBOs even have line techs sign safety documents stressing the importance of the deadman and it's use).
• Make sure the deadman is user friendly and of a type that may be less likely to be defeated.
• Check and test the system for proper shutoff regularly.

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(To contribute safety tips/ideas, contact John Infanger at (920) 563-1655 or