Although pilots have been doing it all along at the Lake Havasu City Municipal Airport, they can now conduct “hot fueling” legally. An amendment to a city ordinance that originally forbade the practice was approved unanimously at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Hot fueling is a “fueling operation that’s done while an engine is running,” according to Damon Anderson, airport supervisor. He proposed the amendment at the meeting. He outlined the necessity of hot fueling as a practice.
Most people recognize hot fueling when it concerns helicopters, as the rotors would be clearly in motion. But the city ordinance also technically prohibited things like “jets running with their APUs (auxiliary power units), running air conditioners in the jet when they’re preparing for boarding — things like that,” Anderson said.
“All these aircraft are run on a certain amount of hours they can operate,” Anderson said. “When you get into the turbine aircraft, when you turn it off and turn it back on, you just diminished the life of that aircraft. They definitely want to make them last as long as they can.”
Military aircraft “definitely want to” go through hot fueling, according to Anderson. Some aircraft, according to Vice Mayor David Lane even “require the APU to be running in order to accept fuel.”
“We’ve had requests from the military that it should be continued,” Anderson said. The fixed-base operators at the airport, like Desert Skies Executive Air Terminal and Havasu Air Center, also “requested that they still be allowed to do that,” Anderson said. Fueling is among FBO services at airports.
Anderson has also reached out to other airports to see how they handle hot fueling, and he said they usually leave it up to the discretion of their FBOs and whether or not it’s covered by insurance.
The original ordinance stated that “no aircraft shall be fueled or defueled at the airport while in a hangar or enclosed space.” While that part is still intact, the amendment states “Aircraft shall not be fueled while any aircraft engine is running except in accordance with NFPA 407 Section 5.21.2 requirements.”
The National Fire Protection Association 407 Section 5.21.2 requirements state that helicopter and aircraft fueling “while onboard engines are operating” shall be permitted only if a licensed pilot is at the controls for the duration of the fueling, passengers are de-boarded (unless safety reasons deem otherwise), no one gets on or off the plane or helicopter during the process, only designated and trained personnel handle the refueling, all doors of the aircraft are closed and the refueling follows regulations for nozzle type, flow rate and safety precautions outlined by the NFPA.
As long as those requirements are met, hot fueling for aircraft and helicopters can continue and will be protected by city law, now that the ordinance amendment has passed.
Councilmember and Airport Advisory Board Liaison Jim Dolan said jokingly at Tuesday’s meeting, “Well, as a pilot, I don’t think hot fueling is a good idea. But I have a hot air balloon, so that’s probably not too wise. But I believe for airplanes, that’s probably okay.”
“So basically,” David Lane asked at Tuesday’s meeting before putting the item to a vote, “just continue what we’re doing, but change the rules so that we’re not breaking our own rules when we’re doing it?”
“Correct,” Anderson confirmed.