Fuel contamination the ‘soft belly’ of airports

Technical flaw, human error or terror act? Each of these possible causes of jet fuel contamination should turn on a big red warning light in the offices of security chiefs in airports around the world.

That is the recommendation of Israeli aviation security experts who investigated fuel contamination that affected the operation of Ben-Gurion international airport in Tel Aviv in May.

The investigation into the jet fuel contamination at Ben-Gurion on May 5 showed that the source of the unidentified substance was from outside the airport. This very general assertion is worrying.

The investigation committee that was formed by the ministry of transport says in its report that no aircraft was refuelled with the contaminated fuel, after the filtration system managed to block it.

The committee recommended that a second jet fuel tank farm should be built in the airport, with separate refuelling lines.


The fuel contamination caused the immediate stoppage of refuelling. Airlines were instructed to refuel at airports in Cyprus and Jordan.

Refuelling at Ben-Gurion was resumed on May 10 after it became clear that the refuelling system in the airport was clean.

The fact that even after the extensive investigation no-one knows exactly what happened is something that calls for more action to avoid such incidents, whatever the cause.

The experts say that jet fuel tank farms are the “soft belly” of many airports around the world.

At most of them they are located outside the fenced perimeter of the airport, and that makes them an easier target for terrorists.


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