This is for a writing project. I've only been able to find descriptions of refueling large jet aircraft. The plane, a de Hallivand DHC-6 Twin Otter, carries 4 passengers, all minors. None have any significant medical issues. I have no knowledge of flight procedure in any form. How would the timeline look for the whole refueling process? How long would it take? Would the passengers have to leave the plane? If so, where would they be required to go?

Thank you very much, anyone who answers; this stuff is gold to an aerial neophyte like me :)

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    $\begingroup$ Probably no more than about a half hour to refuel. I don't know the Otter, but it's probably gravity fueled through a cap atop each wing. Per your other question, a risk taking pilot smuggling passengers in an urgent situation probably wouldn't be too concerned with deplaning passengers to meet some safety statute. I might recommend you find a local Twin Otter operator, buy him or her dinner, and pick their brain on these sort of things. Maybe ask to crawl around the airplane a little. The details will lend authenticity to your work. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2019 at 21:32
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    $\begingroup$ I know I'm not supposed to thank people with comments, but I really do appreciate your answers. Your expertise is clear, and you're taking into consideration the context of the question and the person asking it. Thank you so much. $\endgroup$
    – Aeroan
    Dec 28, 2019 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ You are welcome. I'm curious about your "project", are you writing a novel? $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2019 at 21:47
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    $\begingroup$ I am indeed. Though it is, of course, fiction, I believe realism is essential in making a novel enjoyable. It makes the writer more credible, grounds the piece with real, gritty details, and can even educate the reader to some extent. Also, your SkyVector recommendation worked out great; I have a rough path worked out with 7 stops, all of which fall within the 771 NM range except for one, which is 772. I'll make this an important plot point. $\endgroup$
    – Aeroan
    Dec 28, 2019 at 22:17

1 Answer 1


The DHC-6 Twin Otter has two fuel tanks located in the belly of the fuselage, one forward (1235 lbs or 185 gal) and one aft (1341 lbs or 201 gal). There is a fuel fill port on the port side of the fuselage above each tank.

Refueling a plane is similar to refueling a car, except (a) planes can hold a lot more fuel than cars, (b) you rarely completely fill the tanks due to weight limitations, and (c) full service is fairly common.

However, with a very light load and a very long trip, you would completely fill the tanks to maximize range. That can mean 30+ minutes at the pump for a plane this size.

For self service, you taxi over to the self-serve pump, stop the engine(s), insert your credit card, attach the ground wire, insert nozzle, pump however much fuel you need, take the receipt, restart the engine(s), and taxi away.

For full service, typically you park on the ramp or at a terminal, call (on the radio) for a fuel truck, the driver does the fueling while you're parked, and you settle the bill before leaving.

Note: in less developed countries, you will likely have to pay cash (USD is accepted everywhere) before they will give you fuel, especially in large quantities. And a smuggler may not want bank records of their transaction anyway.

Normally, passengers will want to get out at fuel stops to stretch their legs, use the restrooms, get snacks, etc. But it wouldn't be unreasonable for passengers to remain aboard if the story has a reason for them to want to stay out of sight.

  • $\begingroup$ And also, if you have a typical high-wing light plane (and I'd hardly call the Twin Otter a light plane), you probably need a stepladder to get the nozzle in the filler neck. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 29, 2019 at 4:54
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf If the tanks are in the high wing, yes. They aren't in the Twin Otter. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Dec 29, 2019 at 5:57
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    $\begingroup$ I think you mean pounds, not gallons. That many gallons would suit a 737. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2019 at 6:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Harper-ReinstateMonica: indeed, vikingair.com/twin-otter-information/technical-description says 378 US gallon total capacity , plus an option 89 gallon long-range. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2019 at 9:17
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenS: Sure, but the Twin Otter isn't a typical light aircraft, so if the OP decides to change the aircraft type, s/he should know that fueling is likely to be different. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 29, 2019 at 18:33

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