Complete Guide to the Various Types of Jet Fuel

Sep 7, 2023

Aviation turbine fuel has several variants, each tailored for specific aircraft engine types and efficiency conditions. Jet fuel is composed of hydrocarbons from crude oil extracted using multiple refining processes. In other words, you could consider it a processed form of kerosene. In comparison to fuel for road transport, some types of jet fuel store higher energy with a peak flash point. Properties like these render it safe to use in air transportation. The pale-yellow, colorless fluid mixed with additives can inhibit aircraft icing in the clouds and prevent corrosion. 

Jet fuel undergoes rigorous global quality and safety standards overseen by international bodies. They provide guidelines for the density of the liquid, freezing point, viscosity, contamination, etc. Global plane fuel standards prioritize safety, efficiency, and consistency in aviation, ensuring that the aviation kerosene used in aircraft engines adheres to stringent quality requirements, preventing incidents and malfunctions caused by fuel-related problems. The standards also promote uniformity by guaranteeing that aircraft can be refueled with the same type of jet fuel across different regions. Compliance with global standards simplifies regulatory adherence, reduces the risk of kerosene contamination, extends engine life, and fosters international trade and cooperation in the aviation industry. 

Aviation fuel is categorized based on its properties. Understanding the implications of these characteristics makes it easier to determine types of plane petroleum. These qualities guarantee optimal engine performance and operational reliability. Besides its energy content and high flash point, customized freezing points prevent solidification in cold conditions, and thicker viscosity ensures better combustion. The liquid’s density influences storage, and corrosion inhibitors keep the plane safe from damage. Compatibility with diverse engine components is a priority, and chemical stability prevents deterioration. Controlled contaminant levels prevent clogs and damage, while oxidation stability maintains kerosene quality. Collectively, these properties underpin success in aviation operations.

Types of Jet Fuel

A range of jet fuel types are available, including Jet A, a prevalent choice for commercial plane engines, and Jet A-1, a similar option with a lower freezing point often used in commercial aviation. Jet B is distinguished by higher performance and increased energy content that suits specific military aircraft. Meanwhile, JP-4 offers reduced energy compared to the ones mentioned before. It is primarily used in military flying. JP-5, mainly utilized by the U.S. Navy, exhibits a higher flash point than JP-4. JP-8, akin to Jet A-1, integrates additives for military applications. Additionally, variant A-1+ improves upon Jet A-1 with supplementary performance-enhancing additives. Ultimately, the first three select variants are used for private corporate charters, while the rest of the fuels are made for military purposes. 

What Is Avgas?

Unlike kerosene jet fuel, aviation gasoline (avgas) is utilized in piston-engine aircraft, especially smaller general aviation planes. Its higher octane value, compared to regular mogas, accommodates the greater power demands and altitude operations of aviation engines. Avgas is commonly employed in older piston-engine aircraft not engineered to run on aircraft liquid petroleum and typically requires octane content. Turbine planes do not require avgas. For example, an instance of a plane propelled by Avgas is the Piper J-3 Cub. The Piper J-3 Cub is a renowned small airplane frequently employed for recreational flying, training, and leisure activities. Equipped with a piston engine, it represents one of the aircraft models commonly reliant on avgas as its source of power. An additional illustration of an aircraft powered by avgas is the Cessna 172. The Cessna 172 is among the most popular general aviation airplanes globally. It is applied extensively in flight training, private aircraft charters, and short-distance journeys. 

What Is Sustainable Aviation Fuel?

With the world moving on to cleaner and renewable sources of energy, it has become equally important for the aviation industry to play its part in combating climate change. SAF reduces carbon emissions from airplanes by 75% mitigating the carbon footprint of every traveler on board. This variation of aviation liquids is only easily sourceable at some frequently visited airports across the globe. Of course, sustainable energy is pricier than common kerosene-based liquids, so it will naturally take a while for the demand to grow in times of heightened global energy prices. 

Jet Fuel vs. Gasoline

Jet fuel and gasoline, both serving as vital transportation sources, exhibit divergent characteristics tailored to meet the distinctive demands of their respective engine types. Regarding chemical composition, jet fuel stands as a kerosene-based derivative characterized by its higher molecular weight and distinct hydrocarbon makeup. This composition grants kerosene a higher energy density, perfectly suited for the rigorous demands of plane turbine engines employed in aircraft. On the other hand, gasoline, primarily used in spark-ignition or piston engines prevalent in smaller aircraft, boasts a lighter hydrocarbon composition, rendering it optimally formulated for internal combustion engine requirements.

The differentiation continues as the engine types for each hydrocarbon source diverge. Kerosene integrates into airplane turbine engines, the staple of aviation, where its combustion at elevated altitudes and the production of efficient thrust remain paramount. In contrast, the spark-ignition engines found in cars and motorcycles find their ideal companion in gasoline, with spark plugs igniting to generate the power that propels land-based vehicles or light piston planes. Further emphasizing their divergence, kerosene’s higher energy density serves as a critical asset in aviation, facilitating extended flights, while gasoline’s slightly lower energy density meets the needs of road transportation.

Additionally, the concept of octane rating underpins the fuels’ disparity. While jet fuel lacks an octane content due to its exclusion from spark-ignition engines, gasoline’s octane rating gauges its resistance to knocking and pre-ignition in engines that rely on sparks for ignition. This becomes particularly pertinent in high-performance engines where high-octane gasoline is mandatory to avert undesirable early ignition.

Summarizing their distinct use cases, jet fuel exclusively moves aircraft turbine engines in aviation contexts, ensuring efficient combustion at high altitudes. In stark contrast, gasoline’s multi-faceted applications encompass piston planes, land-based vehicles such as cars, and motorcycles, and even smaller engines. This intricate interplay of characteristics highlights the tailored nature of these hydrocarbons, each meticulously crafted to match the demands of their specific realms and engine configurations.

What Is the Difference Between Jet A and Jet A-1?

Jet A and Jet A-1 differ primarily in their freezing points and intended usage. Jet A fuel starts to solidify around -40°C (-40°F), while the other one has a lower freezing point and begins to solidify around -47°C (-52.6°F). This difference in freezing points makes Jet A-1 better suited for colder climates, as it remains more resistant to solidification at lower temperatures. As a result, the improved one is commonly used in regions with cold weather and for international flights that may encounter varying temperature conditions. While both share similar energy content and performance characteristics, their choice depends on the specific environmental conditions and flight routes. Jet A is typically employed in areas with milder or moderate climates, such as the USA. In contrast, the better variant is favored for its ability to withstand colder temperatures, making it a suitable choice for flights operating in regions where freezing temperatures are more prevalent. The Gulfstream G series, with its ultra-long-range corporate aircraft, is an example of aircraft run on Jet A and Jet A-1.

What Is the Best Jet Fuel?

The hunt for superior aviation fuel revolves around a balanced blend of properties that ensure optimal aviation performance, safety, efficiency, and environmental consciousness. This pursuit encompasses a spectrum of attributes meticulously designed to address the diverse needs of aviation. For starters, the heavy energy density of exceptional jet fuel underpins efficient operations, facilitating extended flights with minimized consumption. Equally pivotal, elevated flash points bolster safety during storage, handling, and fueling, effectively mitigating the risk of inadvertent ignition. In regions of frigid climes, the gift of lower freezing points, typified by Jet A-1, prevents liquid crystallization, a crucial safeguard for sustainable performance. Precise viscosity upholds effective pumping, and combustion within engines, ensuring optimal overall engine efficiency. Proper density, an unassuming yet pivotal trait, harmonizes efficiency and accurate hydrocarbon quantity measurement, effectively enhancing aircraft performance. Moreover, the diligent incorporation of corrosion inhibitors prevents deleterious effects on systems, fortifying engine components and engendering an added layer of safety assurance.

This collection of remarkable properties continues with the seamless compatibility of optimal jet fuel, effortlessly synchronizing with a myriad of engine types, seals, and materials inherent to aviation systems. The augmented calorific value, representative of a superior blend, signifies a lot of energy release during combustion, cultivating efficient engine operation and an improved thrust-to-fuel ratio. Meanwhile, the chemical stability of premium aviation fuel acts as a sentinel against deposit formation and degradation, ensuring sustained fuel quality over time. Effective control of contaminant levels, water intrusion, and impurities emerges as a pivotal necessity, preventing filter blockages and perpetuating engine performance. 

As the industry aligns with ecological goals, the advent of eco-conscious sources of power featuring low sulfur content and a diminished carbon footprint ushers in a new era of environmental responsibility. With availability spanning key airports and global locales, aviation fuels underscore the seamlessness of flight operations, while unwavering adherence to international aviation fuel standards and protocols guarantees safety and consistency. While some may exemplify many of these requisites, the selection of aviation hydrocarbon hinges on intricate factors like aircraft specifications, operational contexts, and fuel accessibility, illustrating that no one-size-fits-all solution exists.

What Is the Most Commonly Used Jet Fuel? 

Jet A and Jet A-1 are the most widely available and used types of jet fuel in North America. Unlike avgas and sustainable aviation feedstock, the aviation industry deals in these liquids almost every second of every day.

Icarus Jet provides exclusive discounts on the purchase of aviation fuel with the help of its extensive network of global suppliers. Our partnerships enable us to offer you a cap of 7% off on all orders and quote competitive and affordable rates. Cheap jet fuel is hard to come by, so make sure you call our trip support specialists to guide you better with your needs. We offer other waive-offs as well. If you’ve got a plane to fly, benefit from buying fuel from Icarus today! 

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