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Safety tips for refueling an Aircraft:
Article By Mr. Gerd Kessler
The recent fire at Fisantekraal Airfield is a good example of how static electricity can ruin your afternoon's flying and damage the property of others. Please take note of the safety tips below and ensure a safe airfield environment.
What is static electricity?
Static electricity on an aircraft normally occurs via friction between the air particles moving over the surface of the aircraft and thus building up an electrical charge on the surface of the aircraft. This happens regardless whether the aircraft is manufactured out of aluminium, tube and fabric or composite materials.
This charge will "jump" to earth as soon as there is a least resistance conductivity path, thus creating an audible and sometimes visible spark. An aircraft is normally not earthed as the tyres are made from rubber which is inherently an isolator, however, in recent years there have been "conductive" tyres manufactured by adding carbon to the rubber compound.
Earthing the aircraft.
Regardless of whether the tyres conduct or not, always earth your aircraft before you attempt refueling. This is done via a crocodile type of clamp, clamped onto the most likely earth point on the aircraft (firewall, engine casing, exhaust pipe etc will do) and a piece of wire of which the other end must be thoroughly earthed. You can obtain this earth via an earth spike. To make sure you have a proper earth you can pour water onto the spike. Remember, static electricity "loves" a dry non humid environment as the charge is less likely to "bleed" away via moisture in the atmosphere. So, the drier the climate, the better chance of building up a static charge. A Painted hanger floor would also not make a good earth, so always refuel in the open and away from buildings.


Earthing of the refueling equipment.
To only earth your aircraft is not enough. The refueling equipment, whether the nozzle of a pump or a jerry can must always be earthed (and stay earthed!!) before brought in proximity of the aircraft, as it could carry a charge (friction via dragging the refuel hose or the can rubbing against an object whilst being transported) This charge on the can or pump hose could then "jump" to earth via your earthed aircraft setting it alight. If you have to refuel from plastic cans, make sure that the nozzle which will be brought closest to the tank filler neck, is also earthed. See the attached photographs for an earthing shroud and earthing wire attached to the equipment.
Please observe these simple rules in the interest of safety of your own life, equipment and those of others.