Today, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), in conjunction with an industry-led working group, released recommendations for aircraft operators, fixed-base operators, fuel suppliers, and other stakeholders to mitigate the possibility of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) contamination in jet fuel.
DEF is a colorless liquid, injected directly into the catalytic convertor in diesel engine light- and heavy-duty vehicles in order to meet stringent EPA emission control standards. When mistakenly added to aircraft jet fuel, DEF crystalizes and clogs fuel systems leading to engine failure.
In three separate instances over the past three years at locations in the United States, including Nebraska and Florida, DEF has been mistaken for fuel system icing inhibitors (FSII), a clear liquid that is added to aircraft jet fuel.
“Currently, there is no available field test that can detect the injection of DEF into aviation fuel. FBO staff and aircraft operators cannot visually or chemically (using current field methods) detect that a contamination event has occurred,” the Aircraft Diesel Exhaust Fluid Contamination Working Group said in its June 11 report. “This situation places the full burden of risk mitigation upon initial contamination prevention.”
“Safety is central to our mission at NATA. We are committed to working with our members and other industry stakeholders to eliminate the hazard of diesel exhaust fluid contamination of aircraft fuel. NATA encourages all of our members, including aircraft operators, FBOs, and fuel suppliers, to read this report and implement the recommendations as soon as practicable,” said NATA Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel Timothy Obitts.
The recommendations focus on “preventative detection and response” measures for aircraft operators, fixed-base operators, fuel suppliers, and aviation industry groups and government agencies.
Additionally, the FAA has made efforts to alert various stakeholders, issuing a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) and two Special Airworthiness Information Bulletins (SAIBs) in 2018 and 2019, as well as a letter sent by the Office of Airport Safety and Standards to airports providing further background and recommendations.
The report strongly urges “all stakeholders to review this report and use it to review their particular segment of the overall system and make immediate and appropriate changes, once identified, and continually monitor, check, and re-check to ensure the proper processes and procedures are, and remain, in place.”
The working group charged industry associations with continued communications and educational efforts with their members and called on the industry to “request an emergency exemption from the rules requiring DEF in on-airport equipment from the EPA.”
“The working group members and broader community must remain vigilant in monitoring the entire system, reinforcing where needed, and acting quickly if another event unfortunately occurs,” the report noted in its summary.
The working group is comprised of representatives from AOPA, AvFuel, CommScope, Dassault Falcon Jet, Fair Wind Air Charter, FAA, FBO Partners, Epic Fuels, GAMA, GAMMON Technical Products, Gulfstream, Murray Equipment Inc., Midwest Aviation, NATA, NBAA, Phillips 66, Sheltair, Signature Flight Support, TAC Air, Total Control Systems, Truckee Tahoe Airport, Union Pacific, and World Fuel Services.
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The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has been the voice of aviation business for over 75 years. Representing nearly 2,300 aviation businesses, NATA’s member companies provide a broad range of services to general aviation, the airlines and the military and NATA serves as the public policy group representing the interests of aviation businesses before Congress and the federal agencies.