Aviation Fuel Testing: Uncovering the Hidden Truths

Aviation Fuel Testing: Uncovering the Hidden Truths

Aviation has come a long way since the Wright Brothers made their maiden flight. Fuel in an airplane is just as critical as the plane itself. Over the years, there have been improvements in the composition and purity of aviation gasoline.

As aviation law and judicial procedures grew, so did the process of authenticating aviation fuel, and cross-references provided tools for managing fuel quality. The following words describe how the process is done.

A History of Aviation Fuel

Aviation fuel testing dates back as early as the 1930s when people discovered the benefits of high-octane aviation gasoline. These fuels allowed for greater compression ratios than ordinary automotive fuel. This resulted in higher performance without requiring engine size to be increased.

The man credited with the move was Jimmy Doolittle, an army reserve who was hired by Shell Oil in 1930. He was instrumental in the development of high-octane aviation fuels. He even set world speed records for land planes using Shell Avgas, a high-octane fuel. A Frenchman named Eugene J. Houdry developed a simple process to refine these oils, making them readily available and cheaper.

Over the years, it has been a first-degree and second-degree summary offense for a company to recklessly use untested fuels due to the risks of fatalities. The Pennsylvania State Police and other departments enforce these rules.

What is fuel testing?

Fuel testing is the procedure by which companies check for particulates, water, microbes, and other substances that may contaminate the fuel. It is extremely expensive to clean and repair aircraft that have been contaminated with fuel. This results in aircraft being grounded for long periods of time, which means the airline loses revenue. Besides, it may cause safety risks for its passengers and crew.

How is Contaminated Jet Fuel Detected?

There are different procedures for each aviation fuel contaminant, as explained below.


Particulates include things like pollen, scale, dust, and rust. Many of them are detected by visual inspection. Small particles that cannot be seen with the naked eye can be detected using chemical analysis.


Water can be detected in several ways. The most common method is through the use of the water tablet test used in other fuels. It helps indicate whether the water amounts in the fuel exceed 30 ppm, which is the maximum allowed for fuels. There are also other tools available commercially to deal with water contamination.


Microbes can grow on high-octane fuels and cause damage to the engine. They can be detected via ATP and CFU tests. Most of these methods involve growing the microbes for a few days to determine their concentration and type. There are a few proprietary methods that give almost instant results.

Other fuels

There is no specific test for checking fuel adulteration with outer fossil fuels. Several tests may be conducted, including evaporation, density, chemical markers, distillation, and gas chromatography. As a result, it reduces the compression ratio of jet fuel, which results in lower horsepower for jet engines.

What the Law Says About Aviation Fuel Testing

As adulteration of fuels may cause malfunctions in engines, spontaneous fires, and third-degree burns, it is prohibited by law. Bodily injury and death as a result of malfunctions due to improper fuel often lead to court orders and hefty fines. They may open a criminal history record for the people involved in the quality control process.

Countries such as the United States, China, and much of Europe have strict regulations on aviation fuel. Over the years, they have amended subsecs and added special provisions to the general rule. These largely affect fuel quality. Each amended subsec and added section provides specific solutions to fuel quality questions.

Aviation fuel testing methods are improving each day as the burden of using high-quality fuel falls on fuel marketers. The attorney general may review laws that could be used by law enforcement officers. Fuel testing does not have an effective date. Results are not offered verbally, but rather in writing so that there is no limited access to information.

Penalties for wrong results in aviation fuel testing are very high, as many countries want to retain positive international and domestic relations, especially because many national airlines are government-owned. There is an offense defined by poor test results. Fuel-related cases are prosecuted by the district attorney and an enforcement officer, but an independent investigator is required in cases related to fuel. The law is there for everyone, from the care-dependent person to the unborn child as in the case of quality fuel.