Episode 3: Where to get fuel when remote flying

One thing guaranteed to ruin your day in the air is when your engine goes quiet. To keep the song alive, an aircraft’s basic requirements are oil and fuel.

Each year, the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau receives many reports of incidents and accidents because of fuel exhaustion or starvation.

Many of these accidents are avoidable. All you need to do is apply good fuel management practices and follow established procedures.

Fuel management

There are 2 main reasons that cause fuel to stop going to the engine of an aircraft:

  1. Fuel exhaustion happens when there is no useable fuel to supply the engine.
  2. Fuel starvation happens when the fuel supply to the engine stops despite enough fuel on board to continue the flight.

Every pilot can help avoid these problems by maintaining high personal standards of safety in their planning.

Proper fuel planning can be the difference between a comfortable, worry-free flight or a nail-biting, stressful wait for that yellow fuel light to come on.

Why add further distraction and worry to your pilot task sheet as pilot in command?

Following fuel management procedures

Operators who insist on carrying minimum fuel in favour of a profitable payload put pressure on the pilot.

Where margins are compromised, risk is heightened. It is the responsibility of every pilot to question any procedures they deem unsafe.

Make sure the aircraft is carrying the correct grade of fuel and is free of impurities before addressing the issue of quantity.

It's really important in your flight planning to factor in where you're going to get your fuel. It’s not available everywhere and a refueller may not even be around at the particular time you want to land. It's a really good idea to ring ahead of time and give them an ETA.

Pete Wells

You can find a list of approved fuels in the Flight Manual and Pilot’s Operating Handbook.

Follow and familiarise yourself with the procedures recommended in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook.

Understand the fuel system on your aircraft

Ask yourself questions to get a better understanding of your aircraft’s fuel system. Questions can include:

  • Does it have a fuel-injected system or a carburettor?
  • Where should you leave your fuel selector valve when parked? In the both position? On the left or right tank? In the off position?
  • What stages of flight do you need to turn it on the aircraft fuel pump (if applicable)?

Factoring in enough fuel on board goes a long way towards safely completing your flight with your reserves intact.

These unknown factors can add to your flight time and drain precious litres from your fuel calculations. Some of the factors include:

  • headwind
  • diversions due to weather
  • ATC re-routing
  • heavily loaded aircraft.
Time in your tanks reference card
Time in your tanks reference card
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