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Which Fuel Is More Explosive?  
User currently offlineWardialer From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 1201 posts, RR: 0
Posted (14 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 10970 times:

I have seen automobile accidents that rarely catch on fire or explode, even in the worse crash. But when I see airplane crashes I instantly see an explosion. Is aviation fuel more explosive than gasoline?

8 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineMinuteman From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 271 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (14 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 10925 times:

I know Prebennorholm has a better answer for comparing the flammability of the two fuels, but I'm inclined to guess that gasoline is more explosive just because it seems like its more volatile than kerosene, so you've got a better chance of rapid combustion of vapors.

Cars don't usually burst into flames in a crash because, unlike planes, they don't generally go belching the contents of their fuel tanks on to a hot engine and into the passenger compartment. Of course engineers for both kinds of vehicles try to prevent this from happening, but it seems like the aircraft designer has many more constraints on implementing safety measures than an automotive designer (weight, balance and capacity to name a few).

Just out of curiosity, how many car and plane crashes (non-Hollywood) have you seen? (Personally, I always liked it when the bad guys' car blew up going over the cliff and the Duke boys got away again.)

User currently offlineVC-10 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 1999, 3727 posts, RR: 32
Reply 2, posted (14 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 10910 times:
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A few years ago I attended a lecture given by a UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch investigator who said in an a/c accident the fuel atomises due to the deceleration forces which makes ignition easier.

He said he once attended a Jaguar (the aircraft not the car) accident site where they found the instrument panel about 20 ft futher into the ground than the bottom of the crator the a/c left. This was because when the wing hit the ground the fuel atomised and blew up, driving the nose of the aircraft further into the ground.

I guess if you saw a car crash at 300/400 mph they would blow up more easily the an a/c

User currently offlineB737-112 From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 893 posts, RR: 5
Reply 3, posted (14 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 10899 times:

Back when I used to fuel aircraft, I was told by manager there that you could have a gallon bucket of Jet A and drop a match in it and the fuel would actually knock the fire out. I have a feeling that regular gasoline would ignite, it smells much stronger and just seems more volitile.

User currently offlineAir2gxs From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (14 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 10892 times:

Car gas tanks are designed not to rupture on impact, for the most part. Also, if they should rupture, the fuel tends not to contact any hot components and the fuel tends not to vaporize.

Aircraft on the other hand will spew fuel everywhere due to the high energy expended in the wreck. The fuel will vaporize and ignite when it encounters a source.

From a chemical stand point, I believe gasoline is easier to ignite than kerosene (jet A)

User currently offlineAtlamt From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 246 posts, RR: 3
Reply 5, posted (14 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 10854 times:

If i remember correctly from A&P school:

At normal temperatures, gasoline in a closed container or tank can give off so much vapor that the fuel/air mixture may be too rich to burn.

Jet A fuel has such a low volatility that at normal temperatures it gives off very little vapor and does not form flammable or explosive fuel/air mixtures.

But when the plane impacts and vaporizes the fuel it is very eaisly ignited.

Also when Jet fuel burns it burns much hotter than gasoline.

Fwd to MCO and Placard
User currently offlineMetwrench From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 750 posts, RR: 2
Reply 6, posted (14 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 10831 times:

Consider this. A mid size car weighing 3000 lbs has a maximum capacity of 16 gallons of fuel. That is 3.7 % of the gross weight of the vehicle. One of the commuter turbo props that I work on has a max take off weight of 16,000 lbs with full fuel capacity of 4300 lbs. That is 25 % of the gross weight. That's why there is such a big fire potential. I speculate that the proportions are similar on larger A/C.

User currently offlineVc10 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1468 posts, RR: 15
Reply 7, posted (14 years 6 months 2 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 10805 times:

Atlamt, a good answer. I remember a long time ago a fireman saying it is the fumes that burn not the liquid

User currently offlinePrebennorholm From Denmark, joined Mar 2000, 7142 posts, RR: 53
Reply 8, posted (14 years 6 months 2 weeks 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 10792 times:

Very good answers all way.

And Metwrench, long range airliners have max fuel weight compared to MTOW ratio much higher than 25%. An A340-200 has up to 46% fuel. And I think that a Concorde goes over 50%. That's almost comparable to a full tankcar on the road!!!

Regards, Preben Norholm

Always keep your number of landings equal to your number of take-offs
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