Whether you operate aircraft with turbojet engines, turbofan engines, turboprop engines, or any other gas turbine engine type, then the ability of flight for your vehicle is made possible through jet fuel. Jet fuel is a specialized form of aviation fuel for gas turbine engine aircraft, and it is a mixture of hydrocarbons that is either colorless or straw-colored in appearance. Depending on the area of operation and the type of aircraft one is flying, there are numerous subtypes of jet fuel that can be used. To help you better understand jet fuel and its applications better, we will discuss the various types of jet fuel available, their compositions, and more.
For older, piston-powered aircraft, the most common type of fuel for combustion is avgas. This fuel is known for its high volatility which is beneficial for deterring preignition and for the improvement of carburetion properties. Despite this, turbine engines are able to utilize more diverse types of fuel due to their ability to inject fuel straight into the combustion chamber for ignition. As a result, gas turbine engines take advantage of jet fuel that is lower in cost, has higher flash points, and is safer to transport.
While early forms of jet fuel consisted of special synthetic fluids or kerosene, most jet fuels created after World War II are based in kerosene. This also led to standardization of jet fuels in both Britain and the United States, where Britain based their standards on lamp kerosene while American standards took from aviation gasoline practices. Over the following decades, standards would adjust as more optimal freezing points and flash points were found to balance expense and performance. In the United States, civilian jet fuel falls under the standards managed by ASTM International, while jet fuels for the military are subject to US department of Defense standardization. Meanwhile, both civilian and military jet fuels in Britain are subjected to standards made by the British Ministry of Defense. For the means of interoperability, British and United States military standards are often fairly harmonious with one another.
While there are a number of jet fuel types that one may use, the most common include Jet A, Jet A-1, Jet B, and TS-1 variations. The Jet A specification is generally only used in the United States, and it has been the standard there since the 1950s. Meanwhile, the Jet A-1 specification is followed by most of the globe. Both have a flash point exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit and an autoignition temperature of 410 degrees Fahrenheit, but the two differ when it comes down to their freezing points. While Jet A fuel has a standard freezing point of -40 degrees Fahrenheit, Jet A-1 freezes at -53 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, Jet A-1 contains an anti-static additive and less sulfur, making it safer. Aside from such characteristics, the density, specific energy, and energy density of both fuels is fairly comparable.
Jet B fuel is another common type, coming in the form of a naphtha-kerosene fuel that is mostly used for cold-weather needs. Such fuel generally follows a mixture ratio of 30% kerosene and 70% gasoline, marking it as a wide-cut fuel. While Jet B fuel is very advantageous for extremely cold environments with a freezing point of -76 degrees Fahrenheit, it has a lighter composition which causes it to be more dangerous during handling. As a result, it is most commonly used for military aircraft and other planes operating in northern regions such as Canada, Alaska, and Russia.
TS-1 is the final major type of jet fuel that is used, that of which is mostly taken advantage of in Russia and surrounding countries. TS-1 jet fuel follows the Russian standard GOST 10227, which ensures a fuel that is optimal for cold-weather operations. While TS-1 fuel exhibits more volatility as compared to Jet A-1 fuel with a flash point of 82 degrees Fahrenheit, its freezing point is below -58 degrees Fahrenheit.
Depending on the needs of the operation and other various factors, jet fuel can take advantage of a number of additives. For example, additives such as DCI-4A and DCI-6A are corrosion inhibitors that serve civilian and military engines respectively, further protecting system components from breakdowns over time. Meanwhile, other additives come in the form of antioxidants for gumming prevention, antistatic agents for spark deterrence, fuel system icing inhibits for fuel line protection, biocides for microbe removal, and metal deactivators for increased thermal stability.
Regardless of the engine type, jet fuel, or additives, all fuel must be free from water contamination that results from atmospheric temperatures and humidity. Water can be absorbed into fuel, leading to microbial growth that may deter performance and engine health. Additionally, water droplets may freeze at higher temperatures than fuel, leading to obstructions and blockages which may quickly spell a hazard. As a result, regular inspections should be upheld, and ample protection must be implemented.
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