A refueling aircraft can refuel itself

Why is refueling when boarding nowadays?

You are not deceived by your impression. Refueling with passengers on board used to be a kind of sacred cow that was only slaughtered in the most extreme cases. Today the procedure is increasingly becoming the standard. There is a reason for this: refueling has become safer.

On the one hand, refueling is much more precisely regulated than in the past - at the legal level, at airlines and at airports. But the equipment also became safer. Modern tanker trucks have to pass close-meshed safety checks, are better and safer than decades ago and are operated by qualified, trained and checked personnel.

Depending on the parking position

The same applies to pump trucks that push the fuel from the airport's underground pipe system into the planes. The pipeline system and its monitoring now employ a large number of employees at the airport, who guarantee the manual and automatic shutdown of the fuel supply in the event of malfunctions.

In addition, airports are obliged to set up rules that describe refueling with passengers. The airport operator makes the decision - if necessary differently for each aircraft parking position individually - what the refueling aircraft must adhere to and then publishes this for the crews: permitted as a flat rate, permitted if the fire brigade informs about the refueling process, permitted if the fire brigade is on the plane, or generally prohibited .

Airline with strict rules

In addition, there are instructions from the airline to your crews about the circumstances under which passengers may refuel. For example, the entire crew must be informed about the start and end of refueling, only small groups of guests may come on board in batches in order to keep the passenger boarding bridge free, the seatbelt signs must be switched off.

That's not all. Depending on the type of aircraft, a minimum number of passenger stairs must be placed in front of the aircraft, no catering or other vehicles may hinder the deployment of the emergency slides on further closed aircraft doors, and a person responsible for the ground staff who fully enforces compliance with the rules must have been clearly named, and and and…

Resist internal pressure

If these rules can be adhered to, then a crew can decide to refuel with passengers on board or during boarding. And I put it that way on purpose. The cockpit crew decides this on a case-by-case basis, weighing the risks and benefits individually. For example, if you miss a departure slot and it is clear that the next slot will not be available for two hours or that day, I would definitely refuel while boarding.

If, on the other hand, only the airport operator wants to close its gate early, but the planned departure time allows refueling before boarding, the crew will refuse boarding while fueling. With ever tighter ground times, you can answer for yourself what the airline and the airport operator expect from the crew. Here it is then up to the captain and the breadth of his shoulders to resist internal pressure.

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