23 - More on Safe Fuel Handling

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Hello again everybody.

Here is my second (and, I hope, final) bunch of e-mail replies about refuelling safety.

I would remind you of two things.

1) My concern is that we all refuel our aircraft safely and treat all fuels with the proper respect and procedures.

2) If you want a fixed refuelling point (bowser) at Serpentine, don't tell me. Tell your committee, who work on your behalf.

These are some of your responses:

Bob Grimstead
SABC Safety Committee

Thank you Bob,

My granddad died at the age of 33 while handling an empty 44-gallon drum from the First World War.

With the potential discussed in this issue, and at my last work before I retired, they all said 'better prevention than cure'. Even if someone disputes your comments and perspective, you must do the best you can to keep our club in shape and prevent negative occurrences.

Keep going and we're all with you. Thank you.

Bob, I agree with all that has been said on this subject and this also highlights the club problems. I know that re fuelling stations have been looked at in the past and found to be too expensive. Over the last few years, our numbers have increased and we should now revisit this again. Could we find out what our fuel usage has increased since over the last four years? We would need to know what other sources have come to the field in 20 litre drums and what has come in 200 drums on trailers and in the back of utes. I believe the club is now big enough to get its own facility. If not now but in the near future and be serious in achieving this goal. As one member pointed out, it is illegal to fuel in the hangar. We all run power tools with the grinders being the worst as the sparks fly a long way. In all my time in industry, this has been the major cause of all fires. We all like to have sharp drills but don't let this be the cause of the fire. I would back any scheme to get a fuelling station at Serpentine. The club would also be in breach with the Shire Lease by allowing re fuelling in the hangers. We can no longer turn a blind eye to this problem.


Hi Bob

Very interesting stuff. The suggestion of a fuel facility sounds good. All this refuelling going on in hangars has me concerned.

Perhaps a silly question.....should the earth rod driven (deep into the ground outside) be connected to the hangar's steel frame... and then the aeroplane earthed by connecting aeroplane to the hangar frame....or should there be a direct cable connection from aeroplane to earth rod?

I would like to buy a decent fire extinguisher.......if anyone can recommend a good brand or type, I'd be interested to know. Thanks

Bob, A thought I have had for some time on fuel contamination. All 200-litre drum pumps are or should be fitted with a water trap/filter on the pump outlet.

BUT what about the hose from the filter to the tank! If the hose constantly kinks at the same place it is possible for the interior liner to delaminate and come away with the fuel flow. Also, dirt ingestion into the end of the hose can be a problem. I have seen filter assemblies that are fitted to the tank end of the hose incorporated with a hand gun shut off. What we need is a filter the same that will filter the fuel into the tank. An alternate is a metal filter with a strainer but the fuel seems to always splash out of the funnel. Just a thought needing a fix and filter supplier.

Yes, the loss of the internal paint in the 20ltr jerry cans is a problem and a filter/funnel needs to be used with all jerry cans. Regards

Bob, Your remarks about installing a central refuelling point show a complete lack of knowledge of the requirements for a central refuelling point at Serpentine. There are many issues here that have been addressed previously, and the simplistic criticisms espoused by some members only highlight their ignorance of the facts.

It is easy to make statements like 'plain bloody daft'; obviously you have a lot of experience with getting fuel to Serpentine. I think not. Many committees have looked at this problem down the years; 'Chasing people for money' was only a related problem that other clubs had experienced. However, it continues to be a problem at other clubs with bowser fuelling. And, yes, we have looked at the 'smart cards' etc.

What is done in UK has little bearing on what is required in WA. BP or Shell will simply not put fuel into old fuel trucks or tanks; they will not accept the liability of fuel contamination, and other concerns with the EPA pollution of ground water etc. They would say " putting fuel into old fuel trucks is plain bloody daft" We have had problems in the past with getting them to put fuel into used 200 ltr drums, and even now, it is done with a blind eye, if we draw attention to this again they well may bring back aircraft refuelling only. ie no drums. The present system of a fuel truck visiting every other month took quite a while to implement as it is.

The last time it was put to the members, say 5 years ago, a significant majority voted for keeping their own fuel. It is still a concern to the shire and we try not to draw attention to 44s in hangars.

The last time we ran the bowser idea, about 5 years ago as I recall, BP would only install their own bowser at considerable cost and we had to have a minimum usage, which was way beyond us then. Murray Field have a bowser and have had a number of 'issues' with it down the years, like car driver theft, vandalism and people not paying, cheating etc. Fuel bowsers attract thieves. Perhaps with our increase in members and aircraft, this option may be approaching viability.

I recognize your wish to improve the safety aspects of all operations on the airfield, including fuel risks, but perhaps you could ask what has been looked at in the past prior to suggesting that long standing members and past committees have made arrangements that are 'plain bloody daft '

I am not offended by the emails that you have 'grapevined,' but only wish to point out that this is an ongoing consideration and is visited at least 2-3 times a year by any committee, including the first meeting of the new committee, held last month.


Thank you for the input about the dangers of fuel and refuelling in hangars. I has been a worry of mine since I hangared my plane at Serpentine. With so much fuel in the hangers, I think that if a fire starts in one hangar the rest will go up too. There is the possibility that the whole airfield could burn down in one big fire.

I know there is great resistance against putting a bowser on the field, but have those that are so opposed to a fuel bowser ever thought that the insurance companies would pay out in case of a fire? I don't think so, because what we are doing is against regulations.

It's about time we reviewed the cost of putting in a refuelling system using solar power like Murray Field and maybe a swipe card system depending on the cost. It is impossible to get aircraft hangar insurance when you have more that one 220-litre drum of avgas in your hangar.

I hate to think how we stand should the inevitable ever happen!!

Our hangar has been properly earthed.

I am all for banning drums at SEN although I use a very expensive pump along with a filter.



Further to your recent discussions on re-fuelling at Serpentine, I wrote to the SABC on this subject almost exactly 5 years ago.

I have been concerned about the dangers of fuel being stored in drums in hangars for a long time now, but the personal urgency has somewhat diminished, as I no longer have an aircraft on site. I feel that you have made a very strong case for the whole matter to be revisited. We should have a facility on the field.

I once saw a beautiful Tiger being refuelled from a jerry can. It had only been recently reconditioned and was worth quite a lot. The owner climbed on a ladder with the can, inserted a metal funnel in the tank, and then reached over to pour the fuel in. Immediately there was a small, very faint blue flame from the spout, almost invisible in the sunlight. The owner got a fright and jerked the jerry can back. In doing so, he fell off the ladder, and splashed burning fuel on the aircraft wing. In seconds, the whole aircraft was ablaze, and there was little left to salvage. As I recall the aircraft was not insured.

I am only surprised that BP or Shell are still prepared to fill drums on the field.

I think the installation of a refuelling facility should be the number ONE project for the club.

Keep up the good work

Hi Bob,

I have just spoken to my electrician and he advised that provided the hangar is earthed, which in most cases this would be true, then it is quite safe to connect the earth wire for refuelling to the frame of the hangar or to a rod in the ground - in my case I have both options but have in the past only been connecting the earth wire to the a/c earth point then back to the drum. Just food for thought.