Self-fueling: Do it legally and safely

Reader John Schreiber recently suggested we provide a link to Rick Durden’s AVweb article from Dec. 26 concerning self-fueling, as well as this FAA Docket 16-05-09 from 2009 defending pilots’ rights to self-fuel.

Safety concerning self-fueling can not be overemphasized.  As a representative of fuel equipment manufacturer U-Fuel of Elk Mound, Wisconsin, I deal with a raft of regulations covering every imaginable aspect of fuel storage and dispensing, which vary by country, state, county and sometimes even by municipality. Most of these regulation are concerned with safety, and for the most part make sense. For this reason, fires and spillage from modern fuel systems are extremely rare.

We all know of accidents from self-fueling however, and, as Durden’s article describes, most could be avoided.

My own first experience was a (stupid) attempt to refuel a hot, two-stroke motor on a small fishing boat from a metal fuel canister in the middle of Kentucky’s Rough River Reservation on a hot summer day as a 13 year old. The ensuing explosion resulted in no injuries, but a long swim to shore and a destroyed engine that was submerged along with the boat to stop the fire.

My second experience was news of a fellow EAA chapter member and experienced A&P who was filling fuel into a vintage Cessna parked in a hangar on a cold, dry day in the Pacific Northwest.  The fire burned him seriously and nearly cost him his life.

The third and more recent case was a friend who refueled a hot emergency generator used to power his home after a storm caused an outage.  The explosion burned his face and hands, but also caused him to kick over the fuel canister, sending a river of burning fuel under his closed garage door.  Ten minutes later his lovely retirement home was in flames, leading to a total loss of the dwelling and a lifetime of memories.

Fuel is an amazing, almost magical substance considering all the good it does us.  Just like touching a stationary propeller, if we keep in mind that it can easily kill us, we’ll live longer and enjoys its benefits as pilots.  If an airport tells you that self-fueling is not permissible, ask politely to see the FAA regulation that forbids it.  If they still persist, refer to the links above.

Thank you John Schreiber for the inspiration for this post!


  1. Dave Currier says

    Is there a list of Airports that sell Mogas.
    I’m new at this and just went out and bought some 5 gal gas cans to start self refueling my plan. Any helpful hints would be appreciated.

  2. John Barsness says

    Sage advice Kent. I have self fueled planes for years using MOGAS from our airport that had a tank (U03)… and from my own five gallon gas cans. I just completed a “fuel trailer” that I built this winter; used a 100 gallon fuel tank that goes in the back of a pickup truck as the tank and a small utility trailer as the carrier. Power is supplied by the tow vehicle for the 12V gas pump which moves the fuel at a good clip. I have a ground chain attached to the pump assembly which includes a ground wire for the aircraft. The tank and pump assembly are housed inside a lightweight “dog house” so the fuel tanker does not draw unwanted attention and is protected from the elements. I hope to use this in the near future as soon as weather cooperates! I will eventually post an article on the trailer on my website. In any event……be careful………burn mogas……save money…. Happy New Year!

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