Airplanes released several hundred tons of fuel over Germany last year. If there are technical problems or the tanks are too full, this is a common procedure – but what effects does this have on kerosene and us and our environment?
"Fuel dumping" – that is the name of the maneuver in which aircraft release tons of kerosene in the air. The background: aircraft always fly with more fuel than they actually need – the additional kerosene serves as a safety reserve. When landing, however, the aircraft must not exceed a certain landing weight.
It can happen that planes are too heavy for landing – for example if they have to land unexpectedly earlier. In these cases, pilots reduce the weight of the aircraft by releasing kerosene during the flight.
Aircraft spray two tons per minute
Although this procedure occurs comparatively rarely, a lot of fuel is released into the environment. When planes have to drain fuel, nozzles spray two tons of kerosene per minute on the wings, reports .
A lot of fuel accumulates pretty quickly, as current figures from one show: According to the Federal Government’s answer, at least 579.5 tons of kerosene were discharged via Germany in 2017 – the government documents a total of 20 cases.
89.5 tons come from military aircraft, the rest from civil aviation. Two thirds of the kerosene was sprayed over Rhineland-Palatinate near Frankfurt Airport.
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Strict rules apply to fuel drainage: Pilots should only perform the maneuver in emergencies and over sparsely populated areas. The aircraft must not fly in closed circles and must maintain a certain altitude. These guidelines are intended to ensure that only a fraction of the sprayed fuel reaches the ground.
The drained fuel blows away thousands of kilometers, only a small part falls on the earth. Nevertheless, risks to health and the environment cannot be ruled out – however, there is still no reliable knowledge or analysis.
"According to its own statements, the Federal Government assumes that the soil is contaminated and cannot rule out damage to human health and animals," wrote the Greens in their inquiry to the Bundestag.
Avoid air travel
The practice of "fuel dumping" is one more reason to avoid air travel as much as possible. But even without a fuel drain, flying is harmful to the environment – hardly any other means of transport produces so much greenhouse gases and CO2 emissions.
For the sake of our climate, we should not fly at all, or as rarely as possible, and travel by bus or train instead. If you don’t want to do without flying, you should at least compensate your air travel with CO2 compensation.
Flying without CO2 emissions? The Solar Impulse aircraft has proven that it can be done. Here you will find the most important facts and backgrounds.
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