Helicopter Hot Fueling

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

When approaching the aircraft, the first thing that needs to be checked is that fire fighting equipment should be available and in position at the fueling operation. There should be at least a 20-pound extinguisher (checked prior to fueling).

Extreme caution must be exercised when approaching the aircraft, according to type, from front or side, and only when instructed by an aircraft crew member. Fueling vehicles shall be positioned with at least 30 feet from any rotor tips of the aircraft. The aircraft should preferably be nose into the wind. Training should include the best entrance point for approaching the aircraft and the best exit route; many times the exit will be along the same path as the entrance. No one should approach or walk to the rear at any time – avoid engine exhaust and the tail rotor.

In order for the fueling operation to begin, information regarding the fuel requirements should be relayed to the fueling personnel and clearly understood.

Wherever possible, advance information concerning aircraft type and requirements should be obtained before the aircraft is at the agreed upon refueling point. All vehicle checks must be completed, and any required fuel sampling performed prior to beginning fueling operations. The aircraft should be signaled into position and all personnel remain clear until flight controls have been neutralized and engine speeds brought to ground idle.

Once in position, and the flight crew has signaled that fueling operations may commence by authorizing approach of personnel to aircraft, fire fighting equipment shall be put into place and the bonding cable connected. It is important to note that static charges can take up to three minutes to dissipate. Utilization of a “curb or other approved barrier” will allow any mobile equipment to approach within 10 feet of any rotating component while the lack of any “curb or other approved barrier” will restrict any vehicle from coming any closer than 20 feet. 

Each person must remain in clear line-of-sight with each other

During the fueling, all personnel involved should be trained and familiar with the location and operation of emergency shutoff controls and fire fighting equipment. Personnel shall be positioned as agreed and remain observant and in clear eye-sight of refueling personnel and the pilot at the controls. Only then should a fueling hose be brought to the aircraft and fueling commence.

The flow rate is to be the minimum practicable and should never exceed the aircraft's recommended flow rates. Pump speed should be as close to idle speed as possible so not to exceed 60 gpm flow rate. In the case of single-point pressure fueling, the main control of fuel flow will be a dead-man control device which has the ability to stop the flow of fuel with one single motion. When using an over-wing nozzle, the nozzle itself acts as the dead-man control.

Refueling should stop immediately if there is any spillage of fuel and must not be restarted until cleanup is complete and the area made safe. It is important with any aircraft not to fill to capacity during hot fueling in order to prevent spillage which can be the precursor to a fire.

Fueling aircraft and operating around motorized equipment are inherently very dangerous; combining these two activities in the case of hot fueling increases that level of seriousness. It is extremely important for all parties concerned to discuss, in detail, those type operations which include hot fueling and to understand all the different hazards these operations pose. Furthermore, it is essential that all involved in hot fueling be properly trained and rehearse or train via simulation these activities prior to embarking on these types of operations. Moreover, it might be wise to have some type of indemnity agreement  in place with the companies concerned prior to conducting hot fueling.



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