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Old 04-13-2016, 11:40 AM
Vern's Avatar
Vern Vern is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Peachtree City, Ga
Posts: 1,084
Exclamation Fire!

I stopped by another hangar this morning and got into a lengthy discussion about all the airplane/hangar fires we have seen and heard about.

I wanted to start this thread so newbies in particular won't repeat these dangerous situations.

My friends told of plane after plane they had known off or witnessed where a fire destroyed or damaged someone's dreams.

They told of a twin which had a visible fuel leak on a turbo charged (hot) engine that the pilot insisted on flying.

A 700k plane burned up when the dehumidifier in the T hangar caught fire.

A Skylane which was flown even though fuel was dripping constantly from the wing.

A mechanic who was draining fuel tanks on a twin when it burst in to flames from a static discharge. It was sitting in the hangar in the same spot where a plane had caught fire the month before.

They spoke of a puddle of fuel on the hangar floor which was ignited when a person drug some insulation across the floor nearby. The flames went from the puddle to a nearby plane.

I had a brand new RV catch fire in my hangar while the tanks were being calibrated for an EFIS.

I pulled a man out of a burning plane which had a fuel line fitting come loose after an engine install. The fitting had never been tightened .

I sat with a mechanic who was working on a fuel system on a twin. He was interrupted and missed a fitting when he resumed work. After he cowled it up, six people took off in the twin which exploded within his sight. How'd you like to have that memory?

I used to work in a shop where the IA kept a bottom third of a 55 gallon barrel full of fuel out on the hangar floor for parts cleaning. He would clean parts in it with a cigarette dangling from his mouth!

I helped out an RVer whose RV burst into flames during runup when the copper primer line broke. His shoes were melted to the floor. In a moment every wire and hose FWF was toasted.

There are more stories, but the point is: many folks may not realize how dangerous fuel is and the fire danger we face with airplanes. Something as simple as calibrating a fuel system can have horrible results.

Never work on draining tanks, etc inside a hangar. Work only on humid days, not dry days when static is common.
Ground the plane and fuel containers when you do. Have extinguishers right there where they would be needed. Have a buddy helping watch for static flashes,etc. Triple check all fittings!. Check them when you uncowl.

What are some other tips you know of?
Vern Darley
Awarded FAA "The Wright Brothers 'Master Pilot' Award"- for 50 years safe flying

RV-6A N680V / RV-10QB N353RV
Luscombe 8E N2423K 50+years
Hatz Biplane N2423Z soon to be birthed
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KFFC Hanger D-30
Peachtree City, Ga
770 310-7169
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Old 04-13-2016, 12:19 PM
simpkinsona simpkinsona is offline
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Vacaville, CA
Posts: 211

Would you mind posting a calendar with where you'll be for the rest of the year?
Andy Simpkinson
RV-9a Subaru engine.
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Old 04-13-2016, 12:25 PM
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Bill Boyd Bill Boyd is offline
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Location: Landing field "12VA"
Posts: 1,711
Default Andy

You truly owe me a new keyboard.

-Bill B

That said, this is an attention-worthy topic.
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Old 04-13-2016, 12:27 PM
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bret bret is offline
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Gardnerville Nv.
Posts: 2,828

This was my first experience with how flammable - combustible oil is, a long time ago, in a galaxy far far.....anyway, we just finished building and installing this wicked BBC and TH 400 in my buddy's 70 Chevelle, on initial start, lots of stress, excitement, exhaust noise, Beer, no wait.....running around we went immediately to 2000 RPM for cam break in, and in a hurry set timing, keeping radiator full after thermostat opening, toping off transmission fluid and that's when the trans dipstick fill tube burped oil out and immediately ignited on the hot headers, flames will get your attention real quick. so moral of the story is, oil will burn just like gasoline under the right conditions, like our oil cooler lines right above our exhaust!
7A Slider, EFII Angle 360, CS, SJ.
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Old 04-13-2016, 12:50 PM
TS Flightlines TS Flightlines is offline
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Ridgeland, SC
Posts: 2,930

And builders ask us why we firesleeve our FWF hoses===
Tom Swearengen, TS Flightlines LLC, AS Flightlines
Joint Venture with Aircraft Specialty
Teflon Hose Assemblies for Experimentals
Proud Vendor for RV1, Donator to VAF
RV7A Tail Kit Completed, Fuse started-Pay as I go Plan, on hold while we develop new products for RV builders
Ridgeland, SC,
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Old 04-13-2016, 05:42 PM
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jjconstant jjconstant is offline
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Oakland CA
Posts: 771

What are some proper ways to ground both the airplane and fuel container when draining fuel? What do you ground to? Do you ground the plane to the container?

I have a bolt into the concrete floor of my hangar that makes a convenient ground point but I have to run a fairly long wire when draining outside my hangar. I don't know how to calculate resistance in air when trying to figure out how long the wire would need to be to make it more attractive for the electrons to spark a short distance in air, rather than run along the wire

Curious as to various peoples' approaches.
All Best

Jeremy Constant
RV7A "Stella Luna" ECI IO-360 WW200RV Pmags 360hrs
VAF 2019 paid plus some for those who can't
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Old 04-13-2016, 06:13 PM
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flightlogic flightlogic is offline
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Prescott, AZ
Posts: 1,674
Default oil drips from breather hose

So is it conceivable that my breather line dripping on the exhaust could ignite? It seems to be fine and I know the valve from Antisplat drips it right into the path of the exhaust.... without any fires that I have heard of.
"Kindness is never a bad plan."

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Old 04-13-2016, 06:44 PM
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DanH DanH is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: 08A
Posts: 10,356

Originally Posted by jjconstant View Post
What are some proper ways to ground both the airplane and fuel container when draining fuel? What do you ground to? Do you ground the plane to the container?
Jeremy, I have a homemade de-fueler rig I've used for years. It's mostly a matter of tying everything together electrically so no difference in potential can build between components and discharge as a spark..

Start with a large metal funnel. Firmly rivet on three wire leads. One is fairly long, with a substantial clip on the free end (like a battery charger clip). The second is medium length, again with a clip. The third is about 18", with the last 6" or so stripped bare.

Position the gasoline container under the tank drain. Feed the short bare wire into the container so it reaches all the way to the bottom, then insert the neck of the funnel. Clip the medium length wire to the airframe, and clip the long lead to a good local ground, like a rod driven into wet dirt, or a nearby hangar frame slab bolt.

Don't forget to discharge yourself before reaching into the fuel vapor zone.
Dan Horton
Barrett IO-390
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Old 04-13-2016, 07:03 PM
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Champ Champ is offline
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Kingsville, Ontario, Canada
Posts: 370
Default DanH De-fueler

Is it OK to use a plastic fuel container if you run a lead into it?

If you used a metal container could you just clip the funnel lead to it without the wire into the bottom?

What gauge wire works?
Dennis Enns
Bellanca Champ 7ACA since 1986, restored 1990.
RV-8 IO375, MTV-9-B/183-50a, PMags, OW Award Oshkosh 2017
2021 Donation In
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Old 04-13-2016, 07:11 PM
BillL BillL is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Central IL
Posts: 6,322

Originally Posted by Champ View Post
Is it OK to use a plastic fuel container if you run a lead into it?

If you used a metal container could you just clip the funnel lead to it without the wire into the bottom?

What gauge wire works?

This might help. Any gage works, put a weight on the end (nut) and run the wire out the vent hole of a plastic container.

Oh - 30,000 volts can be generated in 6" of plastic tubing with high fuel flows, so caution, it does not take much length. Using clear vinyl is good to see if air is in the fuel, but it does not take much length.

Hey Vern, with stories like that you could sell insurance.


Last edited by BillL : 04-13-2016 at 09:03 PM.
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