Fuel Matters, Part II

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Two weeks ago, we looked at some material that has been put together by AOPA in regards to fuel starvation. This, of course, was in response to

The first question is this:

How much fuel do you really have in those tanks?

From there, let the deluge of questions continue!

What is the capacity of your tanks?
Are they normal, long range, or super long range?
Do you know the difference between usable and unusable fuel?
Did you use the right dipstick?
Is it possible to “eyeball” the fuel? If so, have you learned what heights in the tanks correspond to the rough amount of gallons that you have in that tank?

What is the range of the aircraft? What about the endurance?
What are the numbers that are published in the POH in relation to fuel burns really telling us?
Next, whatis the maximum range of the aircraft, and what is the maximum endurance of our airplane?
Which is more important, range or endurance and why?
What is the speed related to this answer?
If you ever needed to, could you set this up in your aircraft?

What effect does the wind have on the airplane?
Why do we put that navigation log together?
Why do we need to check our ground speed and to get a revised estimated time of arrival—notjust once—butwith regularity?
What would happen if you discovered that your ground speed is less than what you had planned on yournavlog?

With those questions in mind, let us next consider the following:

Can we trust those forecasted winds?
Do these winds remained constant over a given leg?
On which planes are the winds more critical to consider-a C152 or a C172?
When planning, what happens if we have to divert around something?
Are there sufficient fuel stops on the route?
Will these places that we have considered be open?
Are there NOTAMS that have changed the availability of the fuel?
What if we got there and we could not fuel up? What then?
What would happen if bad weather did not allow me to get to a fuel stop?

How does that mixture thing really work?
Are you using the proper leaning techniques?
What will happen to your enduranceand range if you do not properly lean?
What is the difference between best power, best economy, and recommended lean?
Should you have an exhaust gas temperature gauge at your disposal, do you know how it works?
When do we lean?(A big hint for this question– as instructors, we still hear a lot of this “Above 3000 feet only” stuff. Is this true?)
Do you ever actually get out after a flight and dip your tanks to figure out what your actual burn is?

Can we trust the fuel gauges?
Can they be used to tell us other things that are useful?
What if you saw them decreasing at a rate more rapid than you were used to?
Might they be saying something then?
What is the importance of the blue dye?
And what if you see an excessive amount of blue die around the aircraft’s wings and/or fuselage?

Are the fuel tanks connected?
By what mechanisms do our airplanes get their fuel from the tank to the engine?
Are there ways to transfer fuel from one tank to another?
What is the purpose of the fuel pump in some airplanes?
Do we have backup pumps?
How often should we change the tanks?
How do we properly change the tanks?
The engine on an airplane with multiple tanks and a fuel selector quits on you–what do you do?

How does the fuel ventilation system work?
What about the “collar” in some of our airplane tanks?
What are they for?

Why are we taking a fuel sample with every flight?
Under what conditions is fuel contamination most likely?
Where are all of the drains on the airplane that we are going to fly?
How many are there?
What if your fuel drain came out clear as opposed to blue?
What are the colors of 100 low lead, Jet A, and mogas?
What does water contamination looklike?
And, what are we actually looking for on a winter’s day when we check the fuel? Water?

How much fuel did those line people or dispatchers really put in my tanks?
How can I be sure?
Do you carefully check your fuel amount after fueling?
Can you convert liters to gallons, and gallons to litres?
Just exactly what are those line people putting in my tanks?
Did you verify that the line person or dispatcher put those caps on tight and right?
Did you know that fuel trucks and fuel tanks are color-coded?
Now that you do, what are the colors of these trucks and/or fuel tanks for Jet A and av gas?
What would you do if you suspected that someone had put the wrong fuel your tanks?
What would happen if we accidentally took off with Jet A?
Would the engine run?
And, if so, what will eventually happen?

What exactly is the reserve for?
How much am I supposed to carry as a reserve?
Related to the reserve—you may have come across the phrase “the golden hour rule” when referring to fuel and the reserve.
What does this mean?
Do you follow this policy?

And finally;

You are about to do a solo cross-country. You calculate that you only need 19.5 gallons of fuel (including the reserve.) However, the weight and balance calculations tell you that you have a lot of weight to spare. How much fuel do you take?

Wow! That’s a lot of questions!

Hopefully, they show that we clearly don’t give a stuff in our tanks enough thought.Each one of the questions listed above could very likely become an article on its own.

But that isn’t all.

I’m sure that if you think long enough and hard enough, you could think of atleast a dozen or more questions that I haven’t asked in this article! Perhaps in the last two weeks you have thought of some!

Hopefully, this exercise has shown that by thinking critically about the stuff in our tanks—andhow its quality, quantity, and distribution methods relate to how long we can fly—wecan avoid a fuel starvation scenario and the forced approach that it will most certainly give us.

But wait…

If you fail to manage your fuel properly, can you really call the result a forced approach?

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