Grounding and Bonding Your Airplane

by Bob Martens on May 24, 2010

In a perfect world, anytime we have an aviation related question or concern, we simply call up our friends at the Federal Aviation Administration to help us out.

Well, we must be getting close, because that’s exactly how this issue worked itself out.

We received an excellent question from a pilot and I knew exactly where to go for the answer.

I called my ole buddy and former coworker Tony Janco who just happens to be one of the smartest guys I know.  And he works for the FAA as an Airworthiness Inspector.

Here’s the question and Tony’s answer:

Q: I was taught to ground the plane before fueling. Now I hear that you should bond the plane. Which is correct and what is the difference?

A: A simple explanation of bonding is that it is done to prevent you from being shocked/electrocuted when your left hand touches one metal component, and your right hand touches another metal component. By running a wire (bonding wire) from one metal component to another (fuel truck to aircraft), stray electricity (from a short for example) will equalize through the wire and one metal component (truck) will NOT have a greater voltage in it than another metal component (plane), hence no spark.

Grounding on the other hand is to give stray electrical current a place to go, other than through you. To some extent, the two work together with each other, sort of as backups for each other.

Static protection in the form of static cable reels should be used to bond aircraft to refueling vehicles, carts or cabinets to prevent a difference in their electrostatic potential.

In simple terms, the aircraft should be bonded to the fuel truck, and the fuel truck should be grounded to the ground post on the ramp.

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Clearly it’s not cool to call the FAA with all our concerns but wouldn’t it be nice if there was more open dialogue?  We’ll talk more about that on another blog post

The point is that there are tremendous resources out in the aviation world that are untapped.  As pilots we need to get to know the professional mechanics that work on our planes.  Everyone benefits when effective communication takes place.  Get to know your mechanic!

Tony has been a fantastic resource for me over the years I have known him. There is no such thing as a dumb question.

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