STUART, Fla. — In just the last few years, jet fuel contamination has grounded dozens of planes nationwide, including planes in Florida.
This week, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that aims to prevent jet fuel contamination and make a billion-dollar industry in the state safer.
State Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-Palm City, helped write HB 77, which now requires public airports in Florida to do more to label and separate two products that some airfields were getting mixed up, causing the contamination.
Overdorf said diesel exhaust fluid is used only in diesel engines to reduce emissions.
Another fluid, FSII, or fuel system icing inhibitor, is used in jet fuel to keep it from freezing at high altitudes.
They look and smell nearly identical, and according to the National Transportation Safety Board, airport refueling trucks are serviced with both products.
Overdorf said in at least 30 instances nationwide since 2017, the products got mixed up, causing the DEF to be injected into the jet fuel. That mix up leads to engine failures.
"So there have been over 30 instances of this fuel mixing into planes," he said. "In many cases, those planes found out, thankfully, before they even took off. They had engines shut down."
"There were at least five or 10 where it's happened at altitude where the engine has flared out and, as a result, pilots by their skill had to make an emergency landing. In many cases, they've been able to get down with one of their engines. In one case, they got down with no engines left. They glided down to the runway."
In Florida, Overdorf said, the jet fuel contamination has happened in Opa-locka, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Naples and Punta Gorda.
Overdorf's bill requires airports to separately store DEF under lock and key and clearly label the product.
He said Florida's new law is now a first of its kind in the U.S. to address jet fuel safety.
"This bill makes Florida No. 1 in jet safety, and I am proud that the Florida Legislature passed this language unanimously and our governor took a firm stand to make Florida the first in the nation to address this issue," Overdorf said in a statement. "I look forward to seeing our federal partners step up to the plate in the near future to ensure we are protecting lives even above 30,000 feet."
The law goes into effect in October and airports must be compliant by January 2022.