As part of a typical general aviation (GA) combustion engine preflight checklist, the pilot takes fuel samples from fuel system drains and checks for correct color, water, or contamination. Although these fuel samples can optimally be returned to the fuel tank (if uncontaminated) or disposed of in an approved container (if contaminated), it is generally acknowledged that many pilots simply discard the fuel samples to the ground surface and/or spill small quantities due to initial sump drainer device connection. Some airport-specific plans are available with guidelines or recommendations for proper fuel sump sample management, and a few states have promulgated laws banning such practices (e.g., Florida DOT). However, it is presumed that the “ground discharge” approach is the most common disposal method. Other potential sources of contaminants entering the storm water runoff system include aircraft fuel tank venting or inadvertent discharge. These and other practices or causes could have an impact on storm water quality and other environmental items at airports.
It is unclear as to what level of pollution exists and to what extent these mitigating procedures impact storm water quality at airports. There are practices and procedures in the current aeronautical environment (e.g., flight schools, Civil Air Patrol) that encourage operators and pilots to conduct their testing in a certain manner.
The objectives of this research are to:
1. Estimate the discard amounts from fuel testing samples, aircraft fuel tank vents, and others that are entering the storm water runoff system from airports and document the methodology by which the estimates are obtained.
2. Develop a guidance document that provides a variety of airport and aviation best practices of aircraft fuel-tank sampling to prevent contaminants from entering the storm water runoff system.
Status: The research is completed and published as RRD 21.