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According to the Aviation Herald, an Alitalia Airbus A330-200 diverted en route "reporting fuel contamination". How can the pilots detect fuel contamination in flight?

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    $\begingroup$ the engine stops working :-) $\endgroup$ – Dan Hulme Nov 24 '17 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ More seriously, there's some useful discussion in the comments of the page you linked (makes a change, I know). Some combinations of ECAM problems are listed in the QRH as indicating fuel contamination. $\endgroup$ – Dan Hulme Nov 24 '17 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ F-35s have a method for detecting fuel contamination. It's linked to their oxygen masks ;-) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 24 '17 at 23:14
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If fuel contamination is suspected (because of engine control system fault indications, slow engine responses or rapid engine pressure ratio (EPR) fluctuations), there is an associated checklist procedure to followed which can confirm the contamination:

Fuel contamination checklist as posted by "330 skipper" at Nov 24th 2017 13:47Z on Avherald:

  • If ENG 1(2) CTL SYS FAULT alert triggered associated with AVOID RAPID THR CHANGES or ENG 1(2) SLOW RESPONSE, and with rapid and continuous EPR fluctuation indications on both engines: A/THR.........................................................................................................OFF

  • If EPR fluctuations stop on both engines: ECAM PROC..........................................................................................APPLY A/THR.........................................................................................KEEP OFF

  • If EPR fluctuations continue on both engines: FUEL CONTAMINATION CONFIRMED Apply condition: If fuel contamination confirmed
  • If ENG 1 CTL SYS FAULT and ENG 2 CTL SYS FAULT alerts triggered with AVOID RAPID THR CHANGES or ENG 1(2) SLOW RESPONSE: A/THR.....................................................................................................OFF FUEL CONTAMINATION CONFIRMED Apply condition: If fuel contamination confirmed
  • If fuel contamination confirmed: LAND ASAP

SUSPECTED ENG FUEL SYS CONTAMINATION Procedure

In addition, the Flight Crew Operating Manual (FCOM) has the following procedure to be followed if fuel contamination is confirmed:

Snapshot image of the ENG FUEL SYS CONTAMINATION procedure from the FCOM


Special thanks to @mins for providing the images of the procedure and the FCOM

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On all larger aircraft, I think there are also magnetic detectors in the fuel lines that detect fuel contaminated by extraneous bits of metal that appear, leading to a message in the cockpit. The more common issue is a fuel imbalance warning where duplicate detectors report different fuel loads, and there are procedures and checlists for managing this situation.

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