Aviation Fuels in the East European Countries - Past and Present

After WWII and until the early 80's the aviation industries of the East European countries have been strongly dependent upon the sovietic connections. The traditional European approaches have been replaced by comunist orientations that limited the natural creativity of nations to mere copies of sovietic standards be it in the aircraft design, manufacturing or maintenance practices, aviation regulations or material standards.

With the gradual fall of the comunist influence, the new independence took various shapes in different countries.

In Romania, the comunist regime's influence over the aviation sector was desastruous and threatening the very nature of the industry except those initiatives personally supported by dictator Ceausescu. So was that a pioneering project survived that later born a massive contribution to improved prospects of the local aviation industry. The British BAC 1-11 aircraft was produced under license by Romanians.

The cooperation considerably affected not only the production powerplant but also the whole of the regulations framework, including the fuel standard that changed from the former Russian T-1 to a local standard called TH, by the influence of the British counterparts who worried about the compatibility of their engines with the local petroleum. TH was basically the T-1 standard suplemented with thermal stability and other requirements common to international Jet A-1 standards.

The fall of the comunist regime in late 80's left TH as the standardized jet fuel produced in Romania. Should say that the alteration of standard from T-1 to TH did not necessarily modify refining processed as the Romanian crude proved to produce reliable aviation fuel at all times, although the testing methods were partly changed in accordance with Jet A-1 standards. With the introduction of Boeing aircraft in the flagcarrier TAROM's fleet, TH was also analyzed by western engine manufacturers with good results that allowed normal service of the aircraft on TH fuel.

First genuine ASTM tests have been introduced routinely on the TH fuel with the entrance of Shell Aviation service in Romania in late 90's, as extensive investments have been made in laboratory installations in conjunction with the major refinery in Romania, Petrom. Duplicate testing in local and European laboratories showed TH samples complied to Jet A-1 standard at all times. In some respects even, TH proved superior to other Jet A-1 fuels as the freezing point showed to be consistently lower than usual imports.

However, a formal difficulty existed throughout the time as the local sources and implicitly the intoplane agents failed to present formal, full Jet A-1 certification evidence for the traded fuel.

A major reason for that inability stood with the refineries' reluctance to invest in proper ASTM testing equipment as long as they were state owned and their legal obligation was to produce jet fuel according to national standard that remained TH for the period. The only deviation from the status-quo was the Shell Aviation's effort that led to a factory standard with Petrom's refinery that was half way formal Jet A-1.

Countries neighboring Romania did not make intermediate steps, as they used T-1 similar standards all the way until their respective alignment to European Union in the 90's caused the privatisation of their major refining plants and subsequent shift to formal Jet A-1 certification under market pressure.

Finally, the same privatisation process occurred with the major Romanian oil company Petrom in 2005, that also meant the disappearance of the TH certification and the introduction of the regular Jet A-1 to ASTM standard.

Throughout the years, the Romanian aviation fuel took many names but remained the same hydroprocessed oil absolutely colorless much appreciated by aviation parties.

Unlike most European practices, the local intoplane agents are required by law to be approved by the Civil Aviation Authority, that use distributors approval regulations based on British aviation requirements models.


The article is intended to provide general background on local aviation realities and trends and contains true facts and data to the best of the author's knowledge, to be used by interested parties. The author shall not be liable to any parties for the contents of the article.

In-depth analysis on various aviation topics may be produced by market researchers of Aerostrada to the benefit of interested parties provided a formal agreement is reached.

Aerostrada SRL
Bucharest, Romania
February, 2006