Kerosene discharge: New Study about the effects on environment

Contrails are water vapor clouds that arise from the condensation of moist air//Foto: dpa

There is no kerosene discharge in regular flight operations, although one reads or hears about it, supported by the observation of contrails. These are water vapor clouds that arise from the condensation of moist air. But there are exceptional cases in which aircraft land unexpectedly due to an emergency and need to drain fuel for safety reasons. A study commissioned by the German Federal Environmental Agency and the German Federal Government is now investigating possible effects on the environment.

What does a kerosene discharge mean for the environment? By atomizing the kerosene at high airspeed, the deflated kersosin is swirled into fine mist. This mist remains in the atmosphere until it is converted into water and carbon dioxide by the radiant energy of the sun. At present, the German Federal Environment Agency commissioned by the German Federal Government develops a study to analyze current scientific findings on the possible effects of a quick-release fuel on the environment.

In which situations can a kerosene quick release be required for safety reasons? In normal operation, an aircraft consumes as much kerosene during the flight that the maximum landing weight is not reached. However, for safety reasons, if planes have to reverse shortly after take-off or land unexpectedly, kerosene must be drained quickly to reduce the landing weight. In the event of fire on board, or in the event of serious illness, the captain must decide, taking account of all the circumstances, in particular safety: discharge kerosene to reduce the weight rapidly, let the aircraft revolve to consume fuel or bring the aircraft with it Overweight land. The latter is only an option if the emergency situation leaves the captain no choice. Safety always has the highest priority. Circling the aircraft is only an option if the problem encountered does not require an immediate landing.

Fuel quick release is an international standard procedure, for which there are clear specifications. The international civil aviation organization ICAO stipulates that kerosene should be discharged at a height of four to eight kilometers, but at least at a height of 1,800 meters.The corresponding airspace should have a low traffic density and lie over an area, which is sparsely populated. Any fuel quick release must be reported to the Federal Office of Aviation within 72 hours. The Federal Supervisory Office for Air Traffic Control must also be informed.
Between 2010 and 2017, an average of 21 times a fuel drain was carried out in Germany per year. During the same period about 3 million flights were handled in Germany over the year. This means that 0.0007 percent of all flights have been drained of kerosene to reduce weight for safe landing. jwm

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