Preheating fuel before it reaches the combustion stage was first proposed several decades ago as a way to improve mixture, fuel economy, and to reduce emissions in car engines.

One example of this method being used in aviation was the Polish jet trainer PZL TS-11 Iskra. Overlooking mechanical complications which may be introduced by using fuel preheating (including vapour lock), does this method have any measurable benefits in aviation in terms of performance or fuel efficiency?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm confused as to what you are asking, you say you ignore results? $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ Fuel heating systems are used in some aircraft to prevent the fuel from gelling, not sure if that's what you are referring to. If not, please post some details on the system to which you refer. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Urquiola I've edited your question so that what's being asked is clearer to readers. Please have a look when you get the chance and review the edit for correctness. $\endgroup$
    – 0xdd
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 16:14

1 Answer 1


The key here is understanding the purpose of pre-heating. Combustion occurs very rapidly to produce the power stroke in piston engines and thrust in jets. It's time in the combustion chamber to do so is measured in fractions of a second.

Ideally, a mixture of 2 gasses, methane and air for example, would ensure efficient and complete combustion. This is your common kitchen stove.

Mixing liquids with air is more problematic, as now you have a mist of small droplets instead of ready to mix gas. This is good and bad. The good is the evaporation of the fuel helps keep the engine cooler. This is a benefit of "full rich" setting. The bad is the fuel is not mixed as well with the air when it burns, lowering efficiency and releasing harmful byproducts such as carbon monoxide.

Proper design (operating temperature) and choice of fuel may eliminate the need for pre-heating, especially once the engine is "warmed up".

Aside from the dangers of heating fuel, gains may be made by standardizing the temperature of fuel inflow for pollution control. Another possibility is to use the heat from turbo compressed air to warm it. Tight control of octane rating is also beneficial.

But aircraft operators adjust their richness based on RPM and usually on the rich side to avoid overheating the engine, which is far more disastrous than slightly lower fuel milage.

In design, using engine heat to evaporate the fuel may eliminate the need for pre-heating, except for extreme arctic applications.


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