This article, written shortly after the introduction of JP-4 fuel for jet turbine powered engines in civilian and military aircraft, was first published in “Rotor Breeze,” the house organ for Bell Helicopter Corporation. It was reprinted in the “United States Army Aviation Digest” and the contents were subsequently incorporated in Army manuals.
Kerosene, the principal ingredient of JP-4, has been distilled from coal since the mid-19th century. Widely used to fuel stoves and power diesel engines for many years, experience showed that compared to gasoline, it was considerably more viscous with a higher flash point.
However, JP-4 is a nonconductive liquid, prone to build up static electricity when being moved through pipes and tanks. JP-4 fuel handlers were not aware of potential hazards during its transportation, fueling or storage. As it is volatile, a static discharge may cause a fire. Turbulence resulting from rapid filling of containers without adequate grounding or filtering out dirt or water can also cause fire.
Turbine fuels have an inherent affinity for water and will carry dirt longer than conventional gasoline. In addition to contributing to static build up, these characteristics can cause unwarranted losses in engine performance – even sudden stoppage.