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VC10er
Topic Author
Posts: 4293
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:25 am

The smell of flying!

Sat Dec 12, 2020 4:36 am

I do vividly recall the smell of jet fuel as a kid through the 1970’s and perhaps 1980’s. You could smell the jet fuel from the car as you drove into the airport (JFK for me) and even inside the terminal and aircraft when boarding. It would finally disappear after take off.

I loved that smell of jet fuel...it meant “IM FLYING!!!”

Today there is no fuel smell at all. How did that change? How did the engineers and petroleum or aircraft manufacturers get rid of the smell- as I fairly sure it was considered pollution?

THANKS
To Most the Sky is The Limit, For me, the Sky is Home.
 
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Starlionblue
Posts: 20606
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: The smell of flying!

Sat Dec 12, 2020 7:24 am

The fuel is still smelly. You can smell it on the water check "puck". :)

I think it the decrease in smell level is due to a combination of two factors.
- Nowadays pretty much all airliners are pressure refuelled so you don't get much vapour escaping. In the past, many airliners might still have been using overwing refuelling, which is more like refuelling a car.
- Fuel spills are much more tightly regulated.


Image
Last edited by Starlionblue on Sat Dec 12, 2020 7:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
GSOtoIND
Posts: 159
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2018 10:46 pm

Re: The smell of flying!

Sat Dec 12, 2020 7:29 am

I drove down the Perimeter Road past the FedEx ramp at IND the other day, and was reminded how much I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning. Maybe where you're at they've switched to that new organic, free-range jet fuel?
 
thepinkmachine
Posts: 458
Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2015 4:43 pm

Re: The smell of flying!

Sat Dec 12, 2020 9:24 am

Ahh, I love the smell of JET-A1 in the morning!
"Tell my wife I am trawling Atlantis - and I still have my hands on the wheel…"
 
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WesternDC6B
Posts: 619
Joined: Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:05 pm

Re: The smell of flying!

Sat Dec 12, 2020 11:46 am

I prefer the smell of 80/88 or 100/130 avgas, myself. :old:
Never employ grandios verbiage when the utilisation of diminutive phraseology will suffice.
 
vc10
Posts: 1436
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2001 4:13 am

Re: The smell of flying!

Sat Dec 12, 2020 7:14 pm

As a boy in the 1950s my dad worked at Heathrow and i would often go with him to watch the aircraft . Now on the north side in those days, which handled long haul aircraft only, as soon as they got rid of baggage and passengers they would be towed off as space was short on the north side. Now every now and again the tow crew would say I could sit up in the aircraft while it was being towed across the airport and then give me a lift back. To this day I can still remember that unique smell inside these pro long haulers and I think it was a combination of, engine oil, hot electrics, cigarette smoke, and some strong liquor, pure heaven to aircraft mad boy of about 12 years old
 
Aircellist
Posts: 1664
Joined: Fri Oct 08, 2004 8:43 am

Re: The smell of flying!

Sun Dec 13, 2020 3:04 am

I was just thinking: "How could one have been a kid living close to Heathrow in the '50s and then still a kid living close to JFK in the '70s, and then I realized that two different posters had almost the same username…

Yeah, I remember that smell of lore, me too…
"When I find out I was wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?" -attributed to John Maynard Keynes
 
e38
Posts: 821
Joined: Sun May 04, 2008 10:09 pm

Re: The smell of flying!

Sun Dec 13, 2020 4:42 pm

Quoting VC10er (Topic author), "Today there is no fuel smell at all. How did that change?"

During the late 1970s and 80s, there was increased emphasis on environmental issues. Engine manufacturers improved the quality of aircraft engines--designing new engines and modifying existing engines--which burned fuel much more efficiently, more thoroughly, cleaner, with fewer emissions.

If you remember in the "old days," 707s, DC-8s, early 727s, and other early generation jets taking off with plumes of black smoke trailing the aircraft and the smell of jet fuel pervading the aerodrome. Obviously, not the case any longer.

I think this was about the same time (mid to late 1970s) that we started to transition from leaded gasoline to unleaded gasoline in automobiles--environmental issues and improvements to air quality.

Regarding your question, "How did the engineers and petroleum or aircraft manufacturers get rid of the smell?

There is considerable information available on the internet that discusses improvements to jet engine combustion (fuel efficiency), hush-kit adaptation (noise reduction) and other enhancements.

e38
 
m1m2
Posts: 251
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2011 3:39 am

Re: The smell of flying!

Mon Dec 14, 2020 1:52 am

Hi VC10er, were you referring to the smell of Jet fuel (kerosene), or the smell of the exhaust from the engines that were burning jet fuel at the airport?

As Starlionblue pointed out, there's probably less raw fuel fumes around these days for just the reasons he suggested, more careful handling of the fuel and less "overwing" refueling taking place. I also agree with him that the fuel is still very smelly, it smells exactly like diesel fuel if you've ever had any experience with that, it's more viscous than gasoline and the fumes linger on your hands/clothes longer (I'm an AME so I have plenty of exposure to Jet fuel both burned and un-burned).

If you're talking about exhaust fumes, there's less of that due to more efficient engines, and less ramp equipment using it as well as less use of the APU when parked at a stand. These days, electric GPU's are used extensively and gate-based air conditioning is very common.

To clarify about ramp equipment, I mean things like GPU's, and Air conditioning carts all of which used diesel fuel that produces exhaust fumes that smell almost identical to burning Jet fuel.

Hope this helps.
 
GalaxyFlyer
Posts: 7444
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:44 am

Re: The smell of flying!

Mon Dec 14, 2020 3:10 pm

In the old days, Revere, MA on the east side of Logan smelled of jet exhaust to the horror of residents.
 
Lemmy
Posts: 261
Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2004 8:40 am

Re: The smell of flying!

Mon Dec 14, 2020 5:58 pm

m1m2 wrote:
less "overwing" refueling taking place.


Where does the vapor in the tanks go when the fuel gets pumped in from below? Is there any sort of vapor recovery system?
I am a patient boy ...
 
bhill
Posts: 1887
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2001 8:28 am

Re: The smell of flying!

Mon Dec 14, 2020 6:48 pm

Burning jet fuel and coffee....as your board your flight in the jetway...
Carpe Pices
 
bgm
Posts: 2535
Joined: Fri Sep 11, 2009 9:37 am

Re: The smell of flying!

Mon Dec 14, 2020 7:55 pm

I'd imagine the wide range use of ground power vs APU reduce the exhaust emissions.
 
Lemmy
Posts: 261
Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2004 8:40 am

Re: The smell of flying!

Mon Dec 14, 2020 9:26 pm

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
In the old days, Revere, MA on the east side of Logan smelled of jet exhaust to the horror of residents.


True. And to be fair, Revere Beach on a weekend night had a lot of worse smells than jet fuel.
I am a patient boy ...
 
m1m2
Posts: 251
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2011 3:39 am

Re: The smell of flying!

Mon Dec 14, 2020 11:02 pm

Lemmy wrote:
m1m2 wrote:
less "overwing" refueling taking place.


Where does the vapor in the tanks go when the fuel gets pumped in from below? Is there any sort of vapor recovery system?


That's a very good question, there is no vapor recovery system (at least not on any aircraft that I've worked on), so I'm guessing the reason you don't smell it as much is it's coming out below the wings and quickly settles to the ground (fuel vapor is heavier than air). The NACA vents are always below the wings and let air out of the fuel tank when refueling and let air in when consuming. Also, whats coming out of the vents is mostly air, not fuel vapor.
 
N1120A
Posts: 26656
Joined: Sun Dec 14, 2003 5:40 pm

Re: The smell of flying!

Tue Dec 15, 2020 10:49 pm

You can still smell it mildly at airports where the parking is close to the aircraft, like at LAX. Jet Fuel smells much better than 100LL, which I've had the displeasure of inhaling a few times when fueling my plane.
Mangeons les French fries, mais surtout pratiquons avec fierte le French kiss
 
mrdentonj
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:07 am

Re: The smell of flying!

Wed Dec 16, 2020 4:43 pm

Yes, I wouldn't say its dissapeared....I live near Gatwick airport in the UK and you do get the odd whiff off jet fuel if the wind is right. You can even smell it when you get off the train nearby. Lovely smell.

Also you get a nose full if you happen to be on an aircraft in a taxi queue...gets right into the cabin, can be quite alarming for some passengers.

Even though aircraft engines are alot cleaner than they used to be, they are still firehosing the stuff into the engine....your always going to smell the exhaust...
 
gregorygoodwin
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Jun 11, 2014 10:01 pm

Re: The smell of flying!

Wed Dec 16, 2020 11:06 pm

I still get to experience the jet fuel smell as a maintenance tech at the FedEx IND hangar. You can definitely tell when fuel panels are opened and the fuel leak crew is working, it's over-powering at times. Also, when we taxi a ship from the hangar to the flight line, you can stand at the hangar doors and get a blast of JP. You will definitely smell it all day long if you happen to get even one drop on you, it will last for quite a while and if you don't have a change of clothes, you will carry home in your vehicle.
Gregory
 
26point2
Posts: 1112
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 2010 6:01 am

Re: The smell of flying!

Wed Dec 30, 2020 3:34 pm

I find a huge difference between the smell of jet fuel and the smell of jet exhaust. Single point refueling keeps the odors down to a minimum but when I walk past the wing fuel event It smells pretty rank. Don’t stand downwind. There’s no doubt the fuel is going into the tanks.

Now, the smell of jet exhaust?...I like that smell. Sort of a sweet smell compared to the smell of raw fuel.
 
m1m2
Posts: 251
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2011 3:39 am

Re: The smell of flying!

Wed Dec 30, 2020 10:18 pm

Smells much like diesel fuel burning which a college instructor of mine used to call "the breath of life". I like that smell as well, although my wife doesn't. She tells me that she can tell when I've been around running airplane engines because she can smell it on me. The CRJ apu is one of the best places to get blasted by jet fuel exhaust, and it warms you up in the winter, just don't get too close and wear hearing protection, that thing is loud!!

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