What Are The Main Causes of Aircraft Fuel Contamination?

The fuel system is a crucial facet of aircraft operation, allowing for the combustion of fuel and air mixtures to achieve heavier-than-air-flight. Despite its advanced construction and robust capabilities, the aircraft fuel system is vulnerable to a variety of issues and damages that are caused by fuel contamination. Oftentimes, the contamination damage that a fuel system may face ranges from the corrosion of the fuel tank to the failure of components. As such, being aware of the common causes of fuel contamination, as well as how to prevent them, can greatly aid in the protection of the aircraft fuel system. Generally speaking, the most common contaminants that can affect the aircraft fuel system and its parts include water, particles, and microorganisms.

As the most common form of contamination within a fuel tank, water can cause various components within the system to begin to deteriorate if left unchecked. Additionally, water also faces the risk of freezing if exposed to cold weather for too long, which can lead to the blockage of an aircraft fuel filter or fuel pumps. As aircraft fuel is composed of some water, contamination can occur very easily if left unchecked and thus fuel can often degrade over time. If the fuel tank is constantly shifting in temperature, water can begin to collect in various areas through absorption or suspension of moisture. Additionally, imperfect seals on fuel tanks can lead to water leaking into the system from the outside. As such, filtration units, drains, and seals should be implemented and well maintained in order to remove any moisture from the system and to best protect the fuel tank and other components.

Beyond water, various particles and debris may be present within fuel due to corrosion, rust, and open ports. Although protective coatings and seals may be well implemented throughout the aircraft fuel system, small particles of sand or rust may still easily enter the system and can cause significant damage if not removed by an aircraft fuel filter. As such, ensuring that filters are regularly inspected and maintained is crucial for damage mitigation as particles can clog and block the fuel pump engine and other components, all of which may lead to a failure. As particles may also enter the system from rusting and corroding components, it is also extremely beneficial to check fuel system components on a set maintenance schedule for their integrity.

Another common cause of fuel contamination comes from the growth of microorganisms, those of which can be found in either air or water. Coming in the form of bacteria and fungi, such microorganisms can cause the blockage of ports and fuel filters as they grow. Furthermore, some microorganisms may create a byproduct that is acidic, resulting in the deterioration of components over time. While microorganisms may be difficult to completely prevent or remove, minimizing the amount of free water within the aircraft fuel system is effective for deterring growth. If the problem of microorganism growth within the fuel system is great, biocides are an option that may be used. Typically, biocides are reserved for greater cases of contamination and are not needed for smaller instances.

Beyond water, particles, and microorganisms, there are a variety of other contamination occurrences that may happen throughout the life of a fuel system. As such, operators should always be adamant about maintaining a well serviced system with all components regularly being inspected. Furthermore, contamination should also be treated as soon as possible through absorption, filtration, and other methods when detected. With proper maintenance and practices, operators can best protect their fuel systems from damage and thus achieve longer and more reliable service lives for their parts.

At Unlimited Purchasing, we can help you procure the fuel sensors, fuel pumps, and other aircraft fuel system parts that you need to carry out your operations with ease. Peruse our robust part catalogues at your leisure, and our team of industry experts are readily on standby 24/7x365 to provide you with rapid lead-times and competitive pricing on everything that we offer. Begin the purchasing process today with a personalized quote on the parts that you are interested in when you fill out and submit an Instant RFQ form as provided through our website.


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