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What’s in Your Wallet? Simple tool to prevent using the wrong fuel.What’s in Your Wallet? Simple tool to prevent using the wrong fuel.

When members of your flying club, and pilots everywhere, think about the fuel that goes into their aircraft, they usually focus on how much they’ll need to get from point A to point B. But that’s not the only fuel issue they should pay attention to. Misfueling—while completely preventable—continues to be a problem, and now a credit-card sized fuel card is available as a simple solution to misfueling.

Misfueling happens because of human error. At the root of the problem is usually a miscommunication or misunderstanding that results in the wrong type of fuel being put into an aircraft. For piston pilots, jet fuel contamination of avgas (100LL) is especially dangerous because it’s impossible to distinguish pure 100LL from a mixture of 100LL and Jet A by simply checking the fuel’s color. Unlike 100LL, Jet A fuel has a zero octane rating. If a piston engine runs with a mixture of 100LL and Jet A, engine-destroying detonation will almost certainly occur. How bad the detonation is depends upon the mixture ratio of the two fuels and the power setting—a recipe for disaster because detonation may not occur until full power is applied during takeoff. Most turboprop and jet engines will run (albeit poorly) on a mixture of Jet A and 100LL—and while this misfueling situation is not always life threatening, the maintenance bills can be significant.

To make sure pilots and those responsible for fueling their aircraft have no doubt about the type, location (tanks), and amount of fuel needed, the Air Safety Institute developed a variety of fuel cards that pilots can personalize with information specific to their aircraft. The cards, which can be ordered from Vistaprint, will help pilots, line service personnel, and FBO customer service reps clearly communicate and confirm the fuel order to help prevent misfueling. So whether you fly a 100LL-burning piston or a Jet-A powered turboprop, the Air Safety Institute has you covered!

In addition, the Air Safety Institute recommends these simple steps to help prevent misfueling:

  • Be present and supervise the fueling.
  • When placing a fuel order, confirm the type and quantity of fuel and ask for a read-back from the customer service representative.
  • Make sure the person taking the fuel order and the person fueling understand the difference between tip tanks and auxiliary tanks, etc.
  • After fueling, check the receipt to verify that your aircraft has received the proper fuel type and quantity.
  • Always sump the tanks before flight, especially after fueling.
  • Smell the fuel: 100LL and Jet A have very unique and different smells—even a blend of the two fuels will smell of kerosene and much different than 100LL alone.
  • Know your engine. Be able to recognize the signs of detonation caused by a misfueling.

See the Air Safety Institute’s Fuel Management Safety Spotlight to learn more.

While credit card companies compete to be the preferred card in your wallet, remember to also carry (and use) fuel cards that could save your life.

Safe pilots are always learning, and the Air Safety Institute’s goal is to ensure pilots have a wealth of information to keep flying safely. Our educational programs are funded through donations from pilots dedicated to forwarding that mission. Show your support by donating to the AOPA Foundation today (

Topics: Flying Club

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