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How long does it take to refuel a big jumbo jet? And what about a smaller A320.

I'm talking in terms of time.

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It's not really clear what is meant by "jumbo jet". A 777? An A340? The ICAO uses the categories heavy, medium and light for aircraft; I think that the category super (i.e. super-heavy; only the A380 is in this category) is not an official one but is still recommended for use in ATC communications. I think most jet airliners are "heavy". – Daniele Procida Jun 12 at 14:43
up vote 22 down vote accepted

It depends on a number of factors like:

  • the aircraft size and variant

  • the range required

  • the aircraft load

  • equipment available

  • Ground crew proficiency

...among others things.

This figure from the 737 Airport Planning document gives 9 minutes for the fueling time for a Boeing 737-600:


Image from B737 Airplane characteristics for Airport Planning

The following image shows the time taken for refueling a Boeing 747-8 Jumbo to be 44 minutes:


Image from B747-8 Airplane Characteristics for Airport Planning

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I need the name of the airline that can deplane in 6 minutes and board in 9. They are going to get all my business from now on. Or 12 minutes to board a 747. – Ron Beyer Mar 14 at 2:18
It would be nice to just list the times in the chart for fueling so a reader doesn't have to figure out the chart to get the number. Also, text is more search-friendly. – JPhi1618 Mar 14 at 14:29
Interesting factoid: takes longer to offload crap than to load fuel in a 737.... – CGCampbell Mar 14 at 16:44
@CGCampbell - That's hardly surprising. Fueling is a relatively simple homogeneous process. Essentially you just plug the hoses in and turn on the pumps until you're done. (There's obviously a bit more to it, but it's mostly routine, predictable.) Moving cargo involves humans making judgement calls on where to put things so they don't fall over, trying not to damage things, balancing the load, making everything fit, making sure the luggage goes where it needs to go, etc. Much more room for variation in that sort of thing, so you have to include fudge-time. – Darrel Hoffman Mar 14 at 18:55
@RonBeyer nothing is said about number of stairs/jet bridges used, neither about physical conditions of self loading fret. If you unboard a 747 full of athlets without hand luggages using the maximum number of stairs, it may be possible. In real life, it is another story. – Manu H Mar 14 at 20:07

It depends on how many equipment are being used to refuel and how much fuel an aircraft needs. But in general there are some ratings which manufacturers issue for handling and ground time.

For example, a B747-8 has (according to 747-8 Airplane Characteristics for Airport Planning):

  • maximum usable fuel capacity of about 59,734 U.S. gallons or 226,113 liters
  • 8 fueling nozzles
  • max fueling rate of 500 US gpm (1,890 lpm) per nozzle
  • total max fuel pressure 50 PSIG

Therefore, in theory it's possible to refuel an empty B747-8 to its maximum usable fuel capacity in 15 min with all 8 nozzles. In normal refueling configuration two trucks (one truck each wing) being used which serves 4 pressure nozzle and takes 30 min to refuel 56,553 US gallons. So standard fueling time for this aircraft estimated about 50 min.

For A320-200 though these ratings are (according to Airbus A320 airplane characteristics for airport planning):

  • maximum usable fuel capacity of 6,303 U.S. gallons or 23,859 liters
  • 6 fueling nozzles
  • max fueling rate 369.84 US gpm (1,400 lpm) per nozzle
  • total max fuel pressure 50 PSIG

And the estimated fueling time is about 15 min refueling 6,303 U.S. gallons using one truck serving two nozzles.

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This answer seems to be saying that an A320 has only one tenth the fuel capacity of a 747. – ChrisW Mar 14 at 11:50
@ChrisW Yes, that's what it's saying. It's true. – Andrew Medico Mar 14 at 12:07
@ChrisW - This may clear things up a little :) a 747's engines are nearly the same diameter as an A320 fuselage... c2.staticflickr.com/6/5528/14609549344_1d5c8f9d3e_b.jpg – Jon Story Mar 14 at 13:46
@ChrisW yes. Based on those official documents and other technical documents. Another example is 737ng with usable fuel capacity of 20,800kg. – N Moeini Mar 14 at 14:35
@JonStory And even the 747's engines look small when mounted next to a GE90-115b (the engine for the 777-300ER.) – reirab Mar 14 at 17:54

According to this article, it generally takes about 1-2 hours to fuel a large jumbo such as an A380. As for smaller jets, the second answer to the Yahoo! question says that Southwest Airlines claims to be able to turn a plane around in 20 minutes. Given that the Southwest fleet is made up entirely of 737s, a jet such as the 737 or A320 should take about 15-20 minutes to refuel.

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I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that quick turn around flights carry enough fuel for multiple legs. Usually the quick turn arounds are short regional hops and the airline may purchase fuel where it's cheaper. – Ron Beyer Mar 14 at 3:59
@RonBeyer most airlines do not buy fuel like you and I do at the pump. See fuel hedging. Chances are, they will fill up when required. – Burhan Khalid Mar 14 at 7:33
@RonBeyer The more fuel you have loaded, the more fuel you will burn just to carry it around. Ryanair has been fined because they repeatedly carried so little fuel that they fell below minimum required reserve during the first or second hold pattern, so the captain had to declare an emergency. If Ryanair acts like that, it must save them a buck or two... – Alexander Mar 14 at 9:41
@BurhanKhalid, purchasing and hedging are two separate activities. Or at least often are. Goldman Sachs enters into and/or brokers hedging contracts. No one at Goldman Sachs is pumping fuel into a 737. Nor is Goldman Sachs contracting with anyone to pump fuel. – Shannon Severance Mar 15 at 0:12

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