Since engines are run only when the fuel pumps are on and vice versa , why are there separate switches for this? Why can't it be automated ?

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the early accept "✔", but feel free to change it if a more helpful answer is posted. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Mar 19, 2019 at 8:43

2 Answers 2


Since engines are run only when the fuel pumps are on and vice versa<<

Not true. Engines can be run without fuel pumps, to allow for fuel pump failure.

The need for fuel pumps depends on the location of the fuel tanks relative to the engines, and the relative thirstiness of the engines - there are some airplanes where the fuel pumps are only used at some times (i.e. near the ground).

So it all depends.

  • $\begingroup$ And some planes have electric fuel pumps that are only used for priming or when the engine-driven fuel pump fails, or when using fuels with low vapor pressure (e.g. mogas), etc. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Mar 19, 2019 at 22:13

You're asking two questions:

Why can't they be automated?

McDonnell Douglas has analysed the eleven million hours of experience with DC-10 systems, which are retained on the MD-11 for the most part. The cockpit has now literally automated the flight engineers' job. Drills and checklists have been converted into algorithms for operating system controls. Checks can now be made on each system simultaneously, rather than sequentially. (Flight, 1987)

They certainly can be, and are on the McDonnell Douglas MD-11. Manual control is possible, but in normal and most abnormal operations the fuel panel is fully automated.

enter image description here
(flightforum.ch) MD-11 fuel panel: the dark 'system' button indicates automatic operation mode, when pressed the word 'manual' is illuminated and then the rest of the panel (buttons) become selectable by the user.

Why are they separate?

In short, they're not engine pumps (engine-driven fuel pumps are run directly by the engines via each engine's accessory gearbox). They are tank pumps, and selective usage of tanks is important. Whether automated or not (automation can fail), you still need separate controls for various situations, of which:


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