An Inside Look at Aircraft Refueling

Air travel has revolutionized trade, leisure and communication for millions of people since its invention. Aircraft have a vast number of applications – commercial airlines carrying civilians to work or vacation destinations, shipping companies using planes to move all manner of products around the world; even the military uses aircraft for surveillance and combat. Like any other type of vehicle, airplanes require fuel to continue operating, and aircraft refueling is essential to keep air travel operations underway.

Delivering Different Types Of Fuel

Different types of aircraft require different types of fuel.  Aviation gasoline, or ‘avgas,’ is fuel produced for use in aircraft that fly using internal-combustion engines and is typically utilized by smaller aircraft and purchased by individual airplane owners. Jet fuel, on the other hand, is intended for planes driven by turbine engines. This includes most commercial, freight and military aircraft. Jet fuel is mainly sold in bulk to corporations for use at commercial airports.

Different Fuel Requires Different Trucks

The two different types of fuel needed for differing aircraft engines are typically transported by tanker trucks, however, the same truck cannot carry both types of fuel, as contamination may occur. Aviation gasoline, or ‘avgas’ is carried to the aircraft by a tanker truck that drives up to the vehicle to fuel it up. Jet fuel is also delivered to an airplane in the same fashion – by a tanker truck carrying anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 gallons of fuel.

Heavy Duty Aviation Trucks

Fuel trucks that are ideal for carrying either avgas or jet fuel typically have a heavy duty chassis, an aluminum tank, and a diesel engine to insure there will be enough pulling power to transport the heavy load.  Some operators opt to run a fleet of pre-owned vehicles that have been well maintained, while other operators choose to build a dependable fleet of trucks from the ground up, installing custom items such as pumping systems, drivelines and hydraulics. Of course, proper maintenance is required to insure that these vehicles run safely and dependably.

Aircraft refueling is an integral part of airline operation, and by extension, of many important industries and the services they provide. Without the pipelines, hoses, trucks and workers, planes couldn’t even get off the ground.