Helicopter Hot Fueling

Rapid refueling should be done following safe practices, extreme care, and only when operationally necessary.

Note to Reader: All personnel should be trained on specific equipment that they will be using in hot fueling operations (very much like the specific training required for towing aircraft). Sign-offs acknowledging this training should be categorized by specific aircraft type and all appropriate hand signals and fueling procedures reviewed by both line personnel and flight crews to confirm proper understanding by all parties. 

This article is intended to provide guidance on performing hot fueling procedures safely by utilizing practical knowledge and standards set forth by the National Fire Protection Association NFPA 407 Chapter 5 section 21 which allows “rapid refueling” of “turbine engine helicopter fueled with JET A or JET-A1” only. As always, your company policies and procedures take precedence over these guidelines. This article is not an endorsement for performing hot fueling - only guidance on making it as safe an operation as possible.

Hot fueling can be defined as fueling with the main aircraft engine running. Additional precautions to normal fueling operations should be followed to prevent aircraft fire during hot fueling operations. This operation should not be considered a routine task, it should be done with extreme care, and only when operationally necessary. Additionally, it is a good practice that a written agreement between the two participating parties be in place in advance of this type of operation stating all areas of responsibility and liability of training requirements.

PPE is a must

The first area of ensuring safety in any operation is personal protective equipment, for hot fueling this should include: fuel-resistant gloves, safety boots or leather boots with non-skid soles, safety glasses or goggles, protective clothing (100 percent cotton or Nomex) and adequate hearing protection. For these types of operations, it is imperative that full PPE is worn, especially safety glasses or goggles to avoid dust, dirt, etc., from getting blown into eyes. Adequate hearing protection is also required as the prolonged exposure in such operations can have a severely detrimental effect on hearing.

There are some key points to consider in the performance of hot fueling operations, they should include:

  • Equipment or physical plant conditions that could adversely effect the results of the operation
  • Areas of concern that could result in personal injury or affect the safety of the operation
  • Primary causes or effects of a fuel product spill
  • Equipment or procedures which might make performance of the task easier or more efficient

Ideally, details of the requirements for carrying out the operation of hot fueling should be discussed in detail and agreed upon by all parties concerned before training for such activities can commence. This is essential for ensuring both flight crews and fueling personnel understand all the conditions required for hot fueling. Items such as hand signals are to be agreed upon between flight crew and fueling operations personnel prior to the start of any hot fueling operation to ensure clear understanding.

It is best advised that fueling operations not take place with passengers on board, unless in the case of emergency ambulance flights, and where the passengers are unable to leave the aircraft. If passengers are to remain on board, it is highly recommended that a two-person fueling crew be utilized. With this two-person operation, one would concentrate on the fueling criteria such as connecting the bonding cable, deploying the fueling hose, and controlling the fueling while the other would remain in clear eye sight of both the refueler and a flight crew member in addition to being in the vicinity of both an emergency stop button, and fire fighting equipment. All personnel involved in the hot fueling should be aware of the location of emergency stop buttons. Where this is not feasible, consideration ought to be given to the safety of carrying out the operation.

Approach the aircraft with extreme caution  

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