Fuel contamination is a potentially detrimental problem. Not only can it force your aircraft to stay grounded for an extended period of time, it can also take a huge bite out of your wallet. Microorganisms called microbes are the most common culprit in cases of fuel contamination. They feed on the hydrocarbons present in aircraft fuel storage tanks and grow in the water that accumulates. If these microbes are not attended to quickly, they will multiply quickly and create operational problems such as blocked pipes, valves, filters, and other fuel systems. Here are 5 indications of fuel contamination to beware of.
Degraded or inaccurate fuel quantity readings are a telltale sign of microbes infiltrating your bearing fuel tank. The reason microbes cause these inaccuracies is because of the way fuel gauge systems operate. Fuel gauges used capacitance to measure, and microorganisms’ capacitance differs greatly from that of fuel.
If an engine fuel filter is accumulating microbiological material at a steady rate, it will inevitably become clogged. First indication of a filter bypass will typically come during takeoff and climbing, when the engine power and fuel flow are at their highest.
Regular examination of your aircraft’s fuel oil pan is an important aspect of aircraft maintenance. If you notice that your fuel is an unusual cover, it is likely a sign that it is contaminated.
If you find stains or dark spots inside your fuel tank, this usually means that the fuel is heavily contaminated. In these cases, a biocide must be used to eliminate the microbes. Be sure to only used approved biocides, as some may cause corrosion of the tank. Stains will most commonly appear on the fuel tank’s floor, walls, and tubes.
Perhaps the easiest sign to see, corrosion of the tank, pipelines, or engine can be a sign of significant contamination, requiring immediate attention before it becomes a serious problem and affects functionality.
While any of these five signs will alert you to contamination, it's important to avoid getting to that point in the first place. Take care of your fuel just like any other aircraft parts with regular checkups and maintenance.