Many dangerous liquids have odorants added so that you can know if something dangerous is leaking. Is anything added to jet fuel (such as Jet A-1) to give it a distinctive smell?

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    $\begingroup$ Kerosene (main component of Jet A-1) already has a quite unpleasant odor, so why would it be necessary? $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Bianfable How can it be unpleasant when it smells like flying ? $\endgroup$
    – Quentin H
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ No kerosene stinks pretty good pretty good on its own so it doesn't need any stinkifiers added. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 13:10
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    $\begingroup$ Obligatory quote: "I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning. It smells like victory." $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 13:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Quentin H: Because to me, Jet A smells like COMMERCIAL flying, which to me is a very unpleasant experience. Avgas is different :-) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 17:38

1 Answer 1


Aviation fuels are all hydrocarbons that have fairly strong natural odors, so no additives are necessary to give them a noticeable smell. Jet-A1 is refined kerosene, which has a distinctive smell which some find unpleasant and others not. Aviation Gasoline (AVGAS) has many "aromatic" hydrocarbons to boost octane which are called aromatic because of their distinctive odors.

So you can smell a fuel spill or leak pretty easily, for at least AVGAS I know this from experience. I once had a fuel leak which filled the cockpit with avgas fumes, I got a lungful before I managed to ventilate the cockpit and it was very unpleasant!

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    $\begingroup$ Technically "aromatic" refers to the stability of the molecular structure but it does apply to the odor here as well. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ That's true now, but when they were first being studied they gave them that name because many had relatively pleasing odors @fooot $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ Avgas also contains considerable quantities of tetraethyllead, which has its own very distinctive odour (fortunately not something I know from personal experience, as TEL is also extremely toxic). $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ It's toxic to ingest @Sean, but getting whiff of it isn't harmful. When you test fuel for water content as part of a pre-flight check one of the steps is to sniff it to make sure it's not all water. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 8:12

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