Aircraft Fuel Tank Maintenance - Emergency Response Plans

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Whilst Aircraft fuel-tank entry is essential for both inspection and modification it poses a number of hazards to maintenance personnel performing the work.

Fuel-tank work can be accomplished as required without placing personnel at risk through effective preparation and training.

The Maintenance Organisation should strive to ensure a safe, healthy work environment for fuel-tank personnel by identifying potential hazards, developing control measures, and instructing personnel in the specific procedures to be followed during all Aircraft fuel-tank maintenance activities.

Fuel Tank Entry Considerations

With a well trained and competent workforce it is highly unlikely we will meet emergency situations frequently – however it is important that we have a process and procedure developed to cope with such abnormal situations.

Entry into enclosed spaces can induce uncontrollable claustrophobia, resulting in panic and an inability to function normally.

All Tank entrants should be trained to recognize the beginning stages of claustrophobia and what to do when this occurs.

Fuel-tank work procedures should address the potential for emergency situations.

What Type of Fuel Tank Emergency

Maintenance Repair Organisations (MRO) should prepare procedures for maintenance personnel to follow in the following four situations:

a) Entrant self-evacuation
b) Attendant-ordered evacuation
c) Air monitor alarms
d) Unresponsive tank-entrant rescue

Maintenance Staff Self Evacuation

The Maintenance Staff must be able to recognize the hazards of working in an airplane fuel tank and should be ready to evacuate if conditions change, including the Maintenance Staff’s own psychological state.

Externally Ordered Evacuation

The “Tank Buddy” (TB) must continually monitor conditions in and around the work area.

If conditions change and potentially put the tank entrant at risk, the “Tank Buddy” should order the entrant to evacuate the fuel tank.

The TB should be trained to recognize symptoms of oxygen deficiency and overexposure to toxic chemicals and should closely monitor the physical state of the Maintenance Staff.

If the Maintenance Staff exhibits adverse symptoms, the TB should order the tank entrant to evacuate the tank.

Monitoring the Air Quality

If the instruments used to monitor Fuel Tank Air Quality go into an alarm mode, the tank entrant should immediately evacuate the tank.

The specific condition causing the alarm should be identified and corrected before work inside of the tank can continue.

Rescue of Maintenance Staff from the Fuel Tank.

If for any reason the Maintenance Staff within the fuel tank entrant becomes unresponsive, the TB should immediately initiate rescue procedures, including immediate notification of emergency response assistance.

The TB should ensure that fresh air supply is being fully maintained, in addition. All ventilation equipment should be checked, and more ventilation should be supplied if available.

Consider if it is possible to access through additional access panels.

Rescue personnel must be specially trained in rescue techniques and should be provided with appropriate rescue equipment, including supplied air and self-contained breathing apparatus.

Sofema Aviation Services and our sister online training portal Sofema Online offer both classroom and online (with voice over) training compliant with the requirements of both EASA and FAA SFAR 88. For details please see our websites or email or

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