Aviation Investigation Report A98H0003

1.19.7  Fuel Detection by Laser Environmental Airborne Fluorosensor

A remote sensing aircraft, operated by the Environmental Technology Centre of Environment Canada, was used to search for aviation fuel that may have been intentionally dumped from the SR 111 aircraft as it manoeuvred for landing at the Halifax airport. The remote sensing aircraft was equipped with a Laser Environmental Airborne Fluorosensor (LEAF) system. This sensor collects fluorescence data from various surfaces in the marine and terrestrial environment by shining a laser onto the surface of the earth. Certain compounds, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in petroleum oils, absorb and re-emit the laser energy as bands of fluorescence. Few other compounds in the environment show this tendency. In addition, different classes of oil, fluoresce with different intensities and exhibit different spectral signatures, meaning that each class of petroleum oil can be uniquely identified. This technique was successfully used to locate and identify Jet A fuel, the type of fuel on board the occurrence aircraft, in the vicinity of the SR 111 flight path. Although the fuel spectral signature was compared to a fuel sample taken from the JFK airport fuel tank used to refuel SR 111, the LEAF technique did not establish whether the Jet A fuel detected on the ground came specifically from SR 111.

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