Checklist: Preventing Misfueling For Pilots

Credit: Adobe Stock/Chris Galbraith

Preventing Aircraft Misfueling For Pilots

The air is not the correct place to discover whether you have the right fuel in your aircraft. Every year, aircraft fueling mistakes lead to serious injuries or even death. Human error is the cause, but simple steps can prevent such accidents.

Here are steps pilots should take to avoid the risk of an aircraft misfueling as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board and Phillips 66. 


Be specific. Always tell line personnel your aircraft tail number, type of fuel your aircraft requires, quantity and which tanks to fuel. Do this every time. 

Use color-coded fuel order forms. Avgas = red; Jet fuel = black. 


Ensure that your fuel placards are correct and specify either 100LL or Jet A, are easy to read and are located at all filler ports. Placards can degrade over time. Be sure to replace any that are faded or worn. Make sure that the proper restrictor is installed. 

Be Alert

Line personnel may not be aware of fueling requirements on your particular aircraft after a modification, such as the replacement of a reciprocating engine, which runs on avgas, with a turbine engine, which takes jet fuel. Some supplemental type certificates do not require a change in size of the fuel filler port with the changes. As a result, the modifications can lead to fueling confusion as the same model or similar looking aircraft may have different fuel requirements. 


Observe your aircraft being refueled. Check the grade on the truck before fuel is flowing. Is it correct? If fueling at an FBO you’ve not before visited, take extra precautions and stay with your aircraft until it is fueled. 


Check the fuel grade and quantity on your receipt to make sure you received the proper fuel. Many pilots with misfueled aircraft have signed fuel receipts showing the wrong fuel was used. Use the receipt as an added safety check.


Sumping a fuel sample is an important part of a preflight routine. Remember that a visual check of the fuel may not detect whether Jet A fuel and avgas have been mixed, even though Jet A fuel and avgas have distinct odors, colors and evaporation properties. Perform a smell test. Jet fuel has an “oily” odor similar to kerosene, while avgas smells more like gasoline.

Observing these tips will help you avoid such mishaps.

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.