In response to several recent incidents involving jet aircraft being damaged and/or disabled after fuel system contamination from diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), an industry task force has issued a report with recommendations on how to mitigate this serious, recurring hazard. The group is made up of stakeholders including the FAA, NATA, NBAA, AOPA, and GAMA, along with fuel providers and FBO chains,
DEF is a colorless liquid used in diesel-powered ground vehicles to meet EPA emission control standards. In three incidents, it was confused with fuel system icing inhibitor (FSII), another colorless liquid. DEF is soluble in FSII, but when it comes into contact with jet fuel, it crystalizes and can clog fuel systems, leading to engine failure.
The 40-page document examines each of the recent events and describes the contamination vector and effects on the aircraft involved. The authors conducted a safety analysis and established a list of short-term and long-term recommendations for industry businesses, concluding: “the risk of another inadvertent DEF contamination event is too great to not take a concerted, aggressive, and multi-pronged, coordinated approach to prevent another occurrence.”
“We are committed to working with our members and other industry stakeholders to eliminate the hazard of [DEF] contamination of aircraft fuel,” said NATA COO and general counsel Timothy Obitts. “NATA encourages all of our members, including aircraft operators, FBOs, and fuel suppliers to read this report and implement the recommendations as soon as practicable.” Among the advice for FBOs, is to take advantage of free training offered by NATA as part of its Safety 1st curriculum to educate all staff members on the importance of proper identification and use of DEF and FSII, including labeling and handling, as well as the consequences of contamination, with such training documented in each employee’s file.
While the report added that DEF and FSII should be stored in different locations to prevent accidental contamination with access restricted to authorized, trained individuals, AOPA president and CEO Mark Baker urged even stronger action. “I applaud the industry for working together to promote steps to address this serious risk to pilots, but I strongly believe that DEF needs to be permanently removed from airports,” he stated. “We don’t need to lose any lives over this.”