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Fuel Management

Fuel Management
Fuel Identification and Handling ......... 3

Fuel Characteristics ..........................3

Hazards ...........................................5

Fuelling Procedures ..........................8

Flight Fuel Management .....................14

Terminology ...................................14

Fuel Systems Knowledge.................... 14

Flight Planning Requirements .........15

Pre-Flight Fuel Checks.....................21

Pre-Takeoff Checks .........................24

In-Flight Fuel Management .............26

Fuel starvation and fuel exhaustion
Post-Flight Actions .........................30
accidents and incidents continue to
Summary .......................................31 occur in New Zealand. The reasons for
many of these preventable occurrences
often relate to pilots poor aircraft fuel
system knowledge, lack of pre-flight
planning, inadequate pre-flight checks,
failure to accurately monitor in-flight
CAA Web Site fuel consumption, and inability to take
See the CAA web site for Civil Aviation Rules, decisive action when faced with a
Advisory Circulars, Airworthiness Directives, low-fuel state. This booklet examines
forms, and more safety publications.
these factors and others, and contains
practical advice intended to make you
more proficient at fuel management.

Every effort is made to ensure that the information in this booklet is accurate and up-to-date at the time
of publishing, but many changes can occur over time, especially in regard to airspace and legislation.
Readers are reminded to obtain appropriate up-to-date information.
Fuel Identification and Handling
Ensuring that you have the correct
amount and grade of contaminant-free
fuel on board before getting airborne is
an important aspect of fuel management.
This section of the booklet covers the
basics of fuel and gives advice on how
to refuel your aircraft safely. Refuelling
from drums, dealing with a fuel spill,
and defuelling are also covered.

Fuel Characteristics

Fuel Types
Aircraft fuels come in two basic types:
gasoline and kerosene. Aviation gasoline
it is better suited to the more demanding
is known as avgas; motor gasoline as
conditions of high-compression-ratio,
mogas; and the kerosene-type fuel is
supercharged engines.
known as Jet A-1 commercially and avtur
in military use. Commonly, piston-engine The octane numbers of avgas and mogas
aircraft run on avgas, and turbine-engine are not directly equivalent. They are
(turboshaft, turboprop and jet) aircraft run obtained by different test methods, and
on Jet A-1. Many sport and private aircraft one rule of thumb is to subtract 8 from
run on mogas. There are also aircraft diesel a mogas rating to give the equivalent
(or compression-ignition) piston engines rating in an aero engine. Avgas contains
that run on Jet A-1. tetra-ethyl lead (up to 0.89 grams per litre)
to obtain the necessary octane rating,
Octane Rating but both grades of mogas are unleaded.
Gasoline-type fuels are rated by octane Using leaded fuel in an engine designed
number, which is a measure of their for unleaded fuel can cause damage.
resistance to detonation (knocking or The only grade of avgas currently
pinking). The higher the octane rating, available in New Zealand is 100/130
the more resistant the fuel is to detonation. note the dual rating, which indicates the
A high octane rating does not imply that fuels performance under both lean and
the fuel is any more powerful, just that rich mixture test conditions respectively.

Volatility If an avgas-powered aircraft is refuelled
Not to be confused with flammability, with Jet A-1, there can be enough avgas
volatility relates to a liquids boiling point, remaining in the aircrafts fuel lines and
and hence its tendency to evaporate at carburettors to enable the aircraft to taxi
normal ambient temperatures. Mogas is and take off. When the jet fuel reaches the
highly volatile, avgas slightly less so, and engine, it will probably cause the engine to
Jet A-1 much less so. Placing a drop of fail. The anti-knock properties of Jet A-1
each of these fuels (and one of water) are very poor, and the resulting detonation
on a non-porous surface will demonstrate can destroy an engine in a very short time.
the difference. On the other hand, a turbine engine will
Volatility is a desirable property of the run quite normally on avgas, although
gasoline fuels, as in a carburetted engine its higher volatility could give rise to
the fuel must evaporate to form the vapour lock problems at altitude. Engine
combustible fuel-air mixture. In a fuel- manufacturers normally specify a time
injected engine, evaporation of the fuel limit (typically 150 hours) in each overhaul
is greatly assisted by the atomising effect period for avgas use, and aircraft
of the injector nozzles. manufacturers may specify procedures
and limitations for when avgas is being
Mogas and avgas evaporate readily at
used. Examples are the Beechcraft 1900,
what we refer to as room temperature
limited to 18,000 feet altitude; and the
and form vapours more than three times
Hughes 369HS, start pump to be ON until
as heavy as air these can flow long
the engine is shut down.
distances, can pool in low-lying areas,
and flow down drains. Pilots need to know the different fuel
grades to prevent refuelling errors.
Flammability Fuel companies can provide fuel
This is the term for a fuels readiness to identification labels to place next to the fuel
burn, which is an obviously desirable tank cap. Also, most Jet A-1 fuel nozzles
quality. The only place where you want have a flat, wide spout, whereas an avgas
fuel burning, however, is in the pump nozzle is round and narrower, so that
combustion chambers of your engine. if the aircraft fuel port is of a corresponding
Flammability is a hazardous property that design, misfuelling is prevented. Not all
must be managed when handling any fuel. aircraft (especially older models) have

Use the Correct Fuel

Occasionally, aircraft are refuelled with
the incorrect grade of fuel. Ideally, the
error is detected before the aircraft takes
off, but this is not always the case.

Fuel Grade Colour Usage Comments

Mogas 91 Purple/bronze Some microlight, More volatile than avgas,

homebuilt, and is not subject to the same
vintage aircraft degree of quality control and
is prone to fuel line vapour
Mogas 95 Yellow/orange Some microlight, lock. Can cause detonation
homebuilt, and if used in modern high-
vintage aircraft compression engines.

Avgas 100/130 Green Most light Can cause spark plug

piston-engine fouling and valve seat
aircraft damage if used in older
low-compression engines.

Jet A-1 Straw-coloured Turbine and Has a distinctive kerosene smell

(Kerosene) or clear jet-engine and will quickly ruin piston
aircraft engines designed for avgas use.

appropriately sized fuel ports, and at least destroying a hangar or killing somebody.
one fuel company does not use the wide An explosive fuel-air mixture can be formed
spout on all their Jet A-1 pumps. by splashing a volatile fuel in an open
It is essential to confirm that the fuel container, as in washing oily components,
identification on the pump being used or by pouring fuel from a sample bucket
matches the appropriate label by the into another open container.
fuel tank opening. All it takes to initiate a fuel explosion is
just a small spark or a hot surface, and
not necessarily in the immediate vicinity,
Hazards given the ability of fuel vapour to flow
long distances.
Fire or Explosion Risk In the event of a fire, extinguish using
During fuelling operations, air and fuel dry powder, foam or carbon dioxide
vapour are displaced from the aircraft fuel extinguishers, or a water fog. Do not use
tanks. This potentially explosive mixture is a water jet, as this will spread the burning
liquid and may make matters worse.
expelled via tank vents and the fill point.
Fires in confined spaces should be dealt
Combining fuel vapour and air (oxygen) with by trained personnel wearing
forms an explosive mixture comparable to breathing apparatus. Ensure an escape
an equivalent mass of dynamite. A fuel path is always available from any fire.
explosion can be quite capable of For any fires, call 111 immediately.

Static Electricity the fuel nozzle and the container.
Commonly referred to as static, this is a Containers complying with Australian/
major potential ignition source. The risk is New Zealand Standard 2906:2001 have
always present, and must be managed, this instruction on the label.
even in seemingly innocuous situations. Filtering fuel through chamois leather is
The considerations apply equally to not recommended. Studies have found
gasoline fuels and Jet A-1. that the use of a chamois can be a static
Static can be generated by the flow of hazard, synthetic chamois even more so.
fuel from the supply to the aircraft, and A drum pump should be fitted with an
by the wearing of synthetic clothing appropriate in-line filter, and the delivery
(high-visibility vests can be a hazard here). hose must be fuel-specific. Your fuel
The electrical charge can build up on an supplier will be able to advise on the
aircraft, a supply installation, or a human correct equipment.
body, and when two unequally-charged
objects are brought close enough together, Contamination
the charge will equalise by means of a Contaminants (especially water) in the fuel
spark. Static spark voltage can be of the have been known to cause engine failures in
order of thousands of volts. New Zealand usually just after the aircraft
Combine this with the presence of fuel has become airborne. To minimise the risks
vapour of sufficient concentration, of this happening, a fuel drain should always
and an explosion will result. be carried out before the first flight of the
day and after refuelling. The following
Minimising Static Hazards considerations apply to taking a fuel sample:
The most important thing to do before After refuelling, allow the fuel to settle
refuelling is to correctly bond the pump for as long as possible (a minimum of
to the aircraft. When refuelling from 15 minutes per 30 cm depth of fuel for
drums, always ensure there is a bonding avgas, and 60 minutes per 30 cm for
lead connected to both the aircraft and Jet A-1 are recommended) before taking
the drum in use. Make the necessary a sample. This gives any impurities a
connections before removing any fuel chance to settle into the drain sump
caps. Additionally, it is safe practice to of each tank. At an intermediate stop,
keep the fuelling nozzle in physical it is a good idea to refuel the aircraft
contact with the filler hole at any time first, before attending to other business
fuel is being pumped. this will normally allow enough time
for any water in suspension to settle out.
This also applies to the filling of portable
containers place the container on the Know how many drain points your
ground, and maintain contact between aircraft has. Some aircraft have belly

or cross-feed selector drain points. Ensure that the drain vessel is clean
Know where these are and drain them before taking a sample. Hold the
daily. Other aircraft have long fuel sample to the light and inspect it for
lines meaning that contaminants can water (normally indicated by small
take some time to reach the drain globules sitting on the bottom, or a
point. Know what the recommended cloudy appearance) and sediment.
sample sizes are. Refer to the aircraft Check that it is the correct colour and
Flight Manual for details. smell for the intended grade of fuel
Confirm that each spring-loaded drain this will also confirm that you have
valve shuts securely afterwards, as any not just drained a sample of pure
leaks will result in higher than normal water (it has been done).
in-flight fuel consumption and could If the sample tests positive for water
even lead to an engine failure due to or other contaminants, empty the
fuel exhaustion. Take care with vessel and continue draining until a
remotely-operated fuel drains, clean sample is obtained. Be sure to
ensuring that they close properly after empty the sample into a fuel disposal
operation. Where possible, have a container, not on the tarmac, as it can
second person catch the sample if your degrade bitumen surfaces. Do not tip
arms are not long enough to operate the sample back into the aircraft tank,
the drain and hold the drain vessel in even if it is clean.
position at the same time.

Water Avgas Mix of avgas and water

Water often collects in wrinkles and Skin Contact Contact with the skin
low points within fuel bladders. causes irritation. Wash skin thoroughly with
Lateral shaking of the aircraft wing soap and water. Remove contaminated
will help to work any trapped water clothing, but wet it beforehand to minimise
down to the fuel drain sumps. Allow the risk of a static spark igniting the fuel.
the fuel time to settle after doing this Ingestion Because of its low viscosity,
before taking a fuel sample. Repeat this material can directly enter the lungs
the process until a clean sample is if swallowed or if subsequently vomited.
obtained. Also, in cold winter Once in the lungs, it is very difficult to
conditions, small amounts of water remove and can cause severe injury or
can freeze the drain plug, rendering death. If fuel is swallowed, do not induce
it inoperative. It will need to be vomiting. Give the person a glass of water
warmed to drain any water that or milk to drink and seek immediate
is present, for example, by moving your medical attention.
aircraft into the hangar.
Inhalation The vapour or fumes may
Consult an aircraft engineer if there cause respiratory irritation resulting in
are unusually large quantities of coughing and difficulty with breathing.
water present in the fuel. High concentrations of vapour can cause
The integrity of the fuel tank vents nausea, dizziness, headaches and
should be checked during the pre-flight drowsiness. Move the exposed person to
inspection. A blocked or deformed vent fresh air. If breathing is difficult, administer
oxygen. If breathing stops, resuscitation
and there have been cases of insects
will be necessary. Get medical attention
building nests inside fuel vents will mean
if breathing difficulties persist.
that the engine-driven fuel pump has to
work very hard because the fuel tanks are
unable to equalise with the atmosphere. Fuelling Procedures
This could eventually result in a collapsed
fuel tank and possibly engine failure. There are safety precautions to take when
refuelling. We should also remember the
First Aid airmanship and courtesy aspects.
Fuels are toxic when inhaled in vapour
After refuelling, move your aircraft away
form, or when ingested or absorbed in
from the pump before heading off for a
liquid form. Any inadvertent contact with
cup of tea or comfort stop. Leave the area
fuel should be dealt with immediately.
by the pump clear for other aircraft.
Eyes Contact with the eyes causes Be aware of the effect of your prop blast
irritation. Flush eyes with copious amounts when you start up if necessary move the
of water, ensuring that the eyelids are held aircraft away by hand to a more suitable
open. Seek medical advice. area for starting.

Refuelling Safety Take extreme care if hot refuelling
To minimise the risks of fire or explosion, with Jet A-1.
there are a number of precautions that There should be a fire extinguisher
should be observed when fuelling an available nearby. Make sure you
aircraft. The same precautions should be know where it is, and also where to
taken regardless of whether the fuel is find the emergency cut-off switch
avgas, mogas, or Jet A-1. for the fuel pump.
Check that the fuel pump nozzle is
General clean and take care not to let water
Refuelling should not be carried out or dirt enter the tank filler neck.
in a hangar.
Support the nozzle while refuelling
Fuelling should not be carried out to avoid damage to the aircraft skin
during electrical storms. around the filler port.
Ensure that all aircraft electrical Secure the caps firmly when refuelling
sources are switched off. is complete.
Check that the type of fuel is correct
Ensure that the pump motor has shut
for the aircraft before starting
off after the fuel nozzle is replaced.
Ensure there is no-one smoking or Bonding
using a naked flame within 15 metres During fuelling, the prevention of fire
of the aircraft and no cellphones, risk due to static electricity discharge
radios, pagers or other portable is dependent upon effective bonding
electronic devices within six metres between the aircraft and the fuel supply
(unless they have been certified for source. It must not be ignored.
use in fuelling areas).
All bonding connections between
Position the aircraft so that it can ground equipment and the aircraft
be pushed clear of buildings or should be completed before tank filler
other aircraft if a fuel spill occurs. caps are removed, and they should be
Helicopters should preferably be maintained until the filler caps have
refuelled on their trolleys for the been replaced.
same reason.
Ensure that the static bonding cable
There must be nobody on board the from the fuel dispenser is securely
aircraft when it is being refuelled attached to the aircraft on a clean
(or defuelled) with avgas. unpainted metal surface that will
Fuelling with avgas must not be conduct current easily. The clip must
carried out with engine(s) running make metal-to-metal contact with the
(hot refuelling). aircraft structure.

Equalise electrical potential by Fuel Spills
touching the nozzle to the metal wing Fuel spills present a potentially serious
surface or fuel cap before opening the fire hazard, as well as an environmental
cap. Keep the nozzle in contact with pollutant, and should be dealt with
the side of the filler neck while immediately. While each spill has to be
refuelling. To avoid scratching the treated individually depending on many
paint on the wing, use a mat, or take variables such as volume of fuel, type of
care to hold the nozzle clear and not surface and wind direction the following
rest it on the wing. actions should, at the very least, be taken:
Stop the fuel flow immediately.
Eliminate all sources of ignition in the
vicinity of the spill or released vapour.
Move all persons, and the aircraft,
away from the spillage area.
Smaller spills should be soaked up using
non-combustible absorbent material
(eg, sand, dry earth) while someone
stands by with a dry powder or foam
extinguisher in case a fire does break
out. Be sure to dispose of the
contaminated material in a safe place
afterwards. Fuel companies supply
response kits containing special
absorbent pads and socks (long and
sausage-like) plus protective gloves and
a disposal bag. Very small spills can be
left to evaporate or soak away.

If the spill is larger than two metres in When opening a drum:
diameter the aerodrome fire service Stand the drum on end, but tilted
should be called. If the aerodrome does slightly, and chock it with the high side
not have a fire service in attendance, positioned at 12 oclock, the bung at
call the local fire service instead they three oclock, and the vent at nine
will know what to do. oclock. This prevents water or dirty
fuel from reaching the openings.
Refuelling from Drums
Ensure that the standpipe cannot
Care must be taken to correctly identify
reach the lowest point in the drum.
the type and quality (fuel does go stale) of
Thus, any small amount of water or
the fuel before refuelling from drums.
dirt will remain in the drum. You
Ensure that the pump is fitted with a clean
should not need the last few litres
and serviceable filter (one that will filter
badly enough to risk using it.
particulate matter, as well as absorbing
water) rust, water and dirt can all be a
problem when fuel is stored in drums.
Note: a chamois cloth, once traditionally
used as a filter, should not be used, as it
can be a potential source of static charge.
Fuel drums should be stored on their side
with bungs and vents at three oclock
and nine oclock
positions. Make
sure that the top
of the drum (with
the openings) is
lower than the
bottom. This will VENT
breathing (air
and moisture
exchange from Proper bonding is critical.
outside). A partly Connect the bonding lead
filled drum is more from the drum to the
likely to contain aircraft before opening any
moisture because fuel caps, and leave it in place
of increased until all fuel caps have been
breathing. replaced.

Jerrycans Fuel could degrade the container
Use only jerrycans specifically material.
manufactured as fuel containers. If you Inadequate structural strength and
are able to obtain the traditional metal impact resistance.
jerrycans, these are preferable to the
Lack of proper warning label and
plastic versions on the market. Plastic
other required markings.
jerrycans intended for use with fuels
will have been manufactured to a Insufficient resistance to ultraviolet
recognised standard; in New Zealand, radiation and heat.
this is Australian/New Zealand Standard Cap gaskets inadequately retained.
2906:2001, and this
In particular, the cap gaskets have been
is embossed perm-
anently on the side identified as an actual hazard.
of the container. The Standard requires that these be
Do not use plastic physically restrained in the cap by a
containers not retaining ring, or other means of
designed for fuel, as preventing accidental loss. Obviously,
they can pose several the gasket should also be fuel resistant.
hazards, and some Apart from simply falling out of the cap
areas in which they and preventing proper sealing, two ways
may be deficient are: in which the gasket can be hazardous are:
Tendency to Embrittlement and subsequent
accumulate static disintegration. The fragments can then
charge. be tipped into the aircraft fuel tank
along with the fuel, and, over time,
A plastic jerrycan that meets AS/NZS 2906. can either clog the tank outlet or the
Various labels and warnings are moulded into fuel system filter(s).
the container during manufacture, and the
white label details safety precautions and first Turning to mush (possibly more
aid procedures. likely in jet fuel), also resulting in
filter clogging.

The transport of fuels is subject to several
different sets of legislation, depending
on the mode of transport. Fuels are
Dangerous Goods, or Hazardous
Look for evidence that the item was Substances, according to whichever laws
manufactured to a recognised standard. apply, but if you need to transport

quantities of fuel in containers other
than a dedicated and licensed tanker,
you need to be aware of the relevant
legal requirements.

Occasionally, weight-and-balance
limitations mean that the aircraft has
too much fuel on board and has to
be defuelled. This may occur, for
example, if the previous pilot left the
tanks fairly full and you wish to load
the aircraft up with passengers and
baggage. If a larger and more suitable
aircraft is not available, your only
option may be to defuel.
The same precautions outlined for
Fuel tanks should not be left to drain
refuelling are applicable. You are dealing
unattended, because of the risk of spillage,
with a hazardous substance.
nor should the decanted fuel be used
There are two ways to carry out the again in another aircraft it may be
defuelling: contaminated. Fuel should not be
By pumping the excess fuel into siphoned, as sucking on the end of the
an approved fuel container with hose to start the flow could mean ending
a suitable hand-operated pump. up with a mouthful of toxic fuel.
Take care that the suction end is
clean before inserting it into the
aircrafts tank.
Via a fuel drain point. Hold a
funnel (metal, not plastic) with a
suitable length of hose attached
under the tank drain point (or
the gascolator), remove the
fuel tank cap, open the drain
point, and let the fuel flow into
an appropriate container. This
method is normally only suitable
for aircraft on which the fuel
drain points can be locked open.

Flight Fuel Management
This section of the booklet aims to improve Fuel contamination is where there is a
pilots overall fuel management knowledge foreign substance (eg, water, dirt) in the
and proficiency in order to reduce the fuel, and which may cause engine stoppage
number of fuel-related accidents and through incombustibility, or blockage or
incidents. While the booklet is primarily damage to fuel system components.
targeted at pilots of piston-engine aircraft,
pilots of turbine-engine aircraft will still
find much of the information useful. Fuel Systems Knowledge

Type Ratings
A number of fuel-related accidents in
Note particularly the difference between New Zealand can be traced back to the
fuel starvation and fuel exhaustion pilots unfamiliarity with their aircrafts
this important difference is not always fuel system. This highlights the importance
understood. of thorough type-rating training. The more
complex the aircraft type, the more critical
Fuel starvation is where there is still fuel any knowledge deficiencies become.
on board, but it is not getting to the
engine. This may be a result of: Pilots intending to gain a type rating need
to ensure that they are thoroughly familiar
A tank being run dry inadvertently, with the aircrafts fuel system and
as a result of distraction or an associated procedures before undertaking
incorrect fuel selector position. any flying. The aircraft Flight Manual or
A mechanical problem such as a stuck pilot operating notes should be closely
fuel valve. studied with particular attention to:
Fuel exhaustion, on the other hand, is Fuel grade, total capacity, and usable
where the aircraft has completely run and unusable fuel quantities.
out of fuel. This could be due to: Fuel drain points and fuel tank dipping
Taking off with less fuel than was procedures.
thought to be on board. Fuel selector operation, especially any
Underestimating the fuel required for cross-feeding procedures.
the flight. Electric and mechanical fuel pump
Losing fuel in flight (eg, from a stuck- operation, and normal fuel pressure
open drain cock). and fuel flow gauge readings.

The actual purpose of fuel boost similar but subtly different fuel
pumps. systems, as it is easy to make an incorrect
Correct leaning procedures, and selection or to revert back to a pre-learned
consumption rates for different response (ie, the incorrect one for that
altitude and rpm combinations. aircraft fuel system) when faced with an
Manifold pressure and rpm for
maximum range.
Consumption rates of fuel-powered Flight Planning
cabin heaters. Requirements
Learning the engine trouble checks.
The CAA Flight Test Standards Guide, Type Determining Fuel Required
Rating is a useful aid for both instructors Many fuel-related occurrences are due to
and type rating trainees. It is available the pilot underestimating the fuel required
on the CAA web site,, to complete a flight safely. There are too
see Pilots. many variables, often beyond the pilots
control, to risk taking minimum fuel only
it is far better to offload some luggage and
add more fuel, or to plan an extra fuel
stop, than it is to cut the fuel calculations
fine. Planning alternative refuelling points
along the route, and using them if
required, is good practice. At no stage
during the flight should a fuel shortage
become a concern.

Warm-up, Taxi and Climb

An allowance for warm-up, taxi and climb
should always be factored into the fuel-
required calculations. Warm-up periods
If you are not particularly current on an in cold weather can be considerable, as
aircraft type, consider whether or not your can the taxi and holding times at busy
fuel systems knowledge is up to scratch controlled aerodromes. It is considered
before you go flying. If not, then it is time good practice for VFR operations to add
to get the aircraft Flight Manual out and 15 minutes at the cruise consumption rate
re-familiarise yourself its amazing how to allow for this. An additional allowance
quickly important details can be forgotten. should also be made for the higher fuel
Extra care needs to be taken when consumption rate experienced in the
transferring between aircraft types with climb, which can be considerable (up to

50 per cent for some aircraft). This is for non-turbine powered aeroplane
normally accomplished by determining IFR operations, sufficient to divert to
how long it will take to climb to the a suitable alternate aerodrome (if so
planned cruise altitude and multiplying required) plus 45 minutes at holding
that value by the climb-power consumption rate at 1500 feet.
consumption rate detailed in the for turbine powered aeroplane and
aircraft Flight Manual. helicopter IFR operations, sufficient
Both these figures are then entered in the to divert to a suitable alternate
fuel-required column of the pilots flight log. aerodrome (if required) plus 30 minutes
at holding consumption rate at
A caution here for pilots unused to flying
1500 feet.
over mountainous terrain time and
distance spent in the climb can be While, for example, a 30-minute reserve
considerably more than that over flat, for a VFR day flight might sound quite a
low-lying terrain. lot, it doesnt necessarily translate to very
much fuel in the tanks. The legal reserve of
a Piper Tomahawk is just 12 litres (6 litres
of usable fuel per tank), for example.
Landing with such a small amount of fuel
on board is questionable airmanship,
especially when dipstick accuracy may be
unreliable at such low fuel levels. The legal
requirements are minimums only, and it is
suggested that higher values be used where
appropriate, depending on the type of
operation being undertaken, the terrain
to be crossed, and weather considerations.
Note: you must plan to land with your
legal reserve still intact. You may not
Legal Reserves plan to complete the flight by using part
of this reserve.
The minimum legal fuel reserves (ie, extra
fuel over and above that required to
complete the flight, taking into account
the forecast weather) that must be carried The fuel-required calculations should
on all flights are: preferably include a variable reserve in
addition to the fixed legal reserve, to allow
30 minutes for all aeroplane VFR for the unexpected eg, stronger-than-
operations by day, and 45 minutes expected headwinds, fuel consumption
by night. greater than anticipated, or diversion due
20 minutes for helicopters. to weather. This amount is normally 10 to

15 per cent of the total fuel required for Consumption Rates
the flight. Fuel consumption rates can vary
Weather forecasts must always be carefully considerably between different aircraft of
interpreted to determine the mean the same type because of their condition,
headwind component for the route and age, and the manner in which they are
whether an alternative route should be flown. An increase of just 100 rpm for a
planned. The effects of a strong headwind fixed-pitch propeller aircraft, for example,
on time and total fuel burn should not be can increase fuel flow by 10 per cent or
underestimated when planning a flight more (there goes your contingency).
doing so has cost a number of New Zealand Similarly, operating at low altitudes with
pilots their lives. Choosing an appropriate the mixture fully rich also substantially
altitude in relation to headwind, true increases fuel burn. The cruise altitude and
airspeed, and leaning can make a power setting required for the flight should
difference it is a good idea to do some therefore be decided on early in the flight
calculations for varying conditions for planning phase, and the Flight Manual
the aircraft you normally fly. consulted to determine the fuel flow rate
for that altitude/power combination.
Too often, pilots of VFR aircraft plan their
A conservative fuel consumption rate
flight making no allowance for an
should then be used, making a further
alternative route should they encounter
allowance for the age and condition of
unexpected weather conditions en route,
the engine concerned. Engines near the
and consequently they find themselves low
end of their operational life sometimes
on fuel when they are forced to divert.
will burn more fuel.
Marginal or changeable weather situations
need to be treated with considerable For multi-engine aircraft, consideration
caution when it comes to planning the must be given to the increased fuel flow on
fuel required. the live engine for engine-out operations.

You have planned a 200 NM flight in
an aircraft that cruises at 90 knots.
A 10-knot tailwind is forecast, and you
calculate your time interval on that
basis. You decide to carry fuel for
2 hours 30 minutes.
How much would the wind have to
change for your reserve to be completely
used up?
Answer on page 31.

Recording Fuel Requirements in which to record the time each tank
Preparing a neat and tidy fuel log pays selection is made, and a running total
dividends when it comes to accurate pre- of the fuel remaining in that tank.
flight fuel management planning. There are Actual fuel gauge readings should also
many different ways of setting out a fuel be noted at the same time in the
log, but whichever method you use it neighbouring column. Advice on how
should at least detail the following to keep this record while in flight is
information: covered later in the booklet.

A fuel-required section should itemise See the accompanying sample fuel log for
the fuel necessary for warm-up and further details.
taxi, climb (if prolonged), each leg of
the flight, legal reserve, and a A Useful Tool
contingency (variable reserve). For IFR An alternative fuel planning tool is the
operations, fuel for descent, approach, Time in Your Tanks fuel log developed
missed approach, holding, and by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety
diversion to an alternate aerodrome Authority (CASA). It is a laminated card,
should also be itemised. The fuel- on which fuel figures are entered
required figures are derived by according to the simple instructions, and
multiplying the fuel consumption rate which gives a readily understood picture
for each flight phase by the time of your fuel state at any time during flight.
required for each stage of the flight. To obtain copies of these cards, email:
These figures are added up to obtain, or contact your local
the total fuel required for the flight. CAA Field Safety Adviser.
In a fuel-available section, the total
usable fuel quantity carried and the
fuel endurance (the usable fuel less
the extra fuel required for warm-up,
taxi and climb divided by the cruise
consumption rate) are recorded. It is
also good practice to record the safe
endurance, which is the fuel endurance
less the legal reserve. (You may want to
factor in a contingency at this point as
well.) By adding this safe endurance to
the takeoff time, you can record a
land-by time once the flight begins
that way you will not be tempted to try
to get to the destination using the legal
reserve. There should also be a section

Calculating Land-By Time Example
As part of the pre-flight planning, you need to calculate the safe endurance of the aircraft as
outlined here:
Total fuel loaded (160 litres) minus unusable fuel (10 litres ) = total usable fuel carried (150 litres)
Cruise consumption rate = 40 litres/hr
Fuel for warm-up and taxi (15 min@ 40 litres/hr) = 10 litres
Extra fuel for climb (15 min @ 20 litres/hr) = 5 litres (over and above cruise consumption rate)
Fuel endurance = 150 litres minus 10 litres minus 5 litres = 135 litres@40 litres/hr = 3.37 hr (3 hr 22 min)
Legal reserve = 30 min
Safe endurance = 3 hr 22 min less 30 min = 2 hrs 52 min
Note the takeoff time and add the safe endurance to it. This will give a land-by time, which
should be noted on the fuel log. If, for example, your takeoff time was 01:15 UTC, the land-by
time will be 04:07 UTC. Landing by this time will mean you still have the 30-minute legal reserve
left in the tanks, provided that your fuel management calculations were done accurately to
begin with. During the flight you might become lost, get caught in bad weather, or encounter
stronger-than-expected headwinds or a combination of these factors. This sort of situation can
make it difficult for pilots to make even the most basic of fuel calculations correctly but at
least you have a land-by time telling you that once 04:07 has passed you are eating into the
legal reserve, and are therefore in an emergency situation.
Note: we have chosen not to include a contingency when calculating the safe endurance in this
example. Your own personal minimums may differ from this.

Weight and Balance Fuel Conversion Factors
The amount of fuel that can 1.58
be carried is often limited AVGAS
by weight and balance litres
considerations. Determining lb
(SG 0.72)
the maximum permissible 3.78 5.99
0.72 - follow the
takeoff weight and the arrow and
4.54 US gal multiply
C of G position is an 2.20
- backtrack
important part of the fuel 7.19 the arrow
management process. 1.20 2.72 and divide
Some aircraft types have a Imp gal
maximum zero fuel weight
(see the accompanying 3.27
table for a definition).
Takeoff and climb
performance should be litres
borne in mind here For JET A-1
lb calculations
particularly when 3.78 6.65
(SG 0.80)
operating off a short 0.80 - follow the
arrow and
strip or over high terrain. 4.54 US gal multiply
- backtrack
Definitions and conversion 7.99 the arrow
factors that relate to 1.20 3.02 and divide
pre-flight fuel planning are Imp gal
shown here to assist you.
Factors correct to
3.63 two decimal places

Stickers showing the Fuel Conversion Factors can be obtained from:

Term Definition
Aircraft Standard Empty Weight The weight of a standard aircraft including the
unusable fuel and full operating fluids.
Maximum Zero Fuel Weight The maximum weight (for structural reasons)
MZFW exclusive of the usable fuel, ie, any weight above
the MZFW must be fuel.
Maximum Ramp Weight Maximum weight permitted for ground movements
(includes weight of fuel for run-up and taxi).
Maximum Certificated Takeoff Maximum weight permitted for takeoff.
Weight MCTOW
Maximum Landing Weight Maximum weight permitted for landing.

from aircraft type to aircraft type refer
Pre-Flight Fuel Checks to your aircraft Flight Manual for specific
figures. The fuel tank outlets on some
Determining Fuel Available aircraft types are very susceptible to
Accurately determining what quantity becoming un-ported during prolonged
of fuel you have on board is important. unbalanced flight, which eventually leads
Assuming the fuel required for the flight to fuel starvation and engine failure.
has been calculated correctly, it should Extreme care must be taken to ensure that
be a simple matter of uplifting it and the unusable fuel quantity is not included
completing the flight with a comfortable in the fuel available, as it can equate to as
margin to spare. much as 20 minutes extra flying time that
It is good practice to check the fuel you dont actually have.
available before flight by at least two It follows that the usable fuel is the
separate methods (in Australia, this is quantity of fuel available for flight
a legal requirement). We can do this by planning purposes. This is the only figure
referring to the fuel gauge(s), loading a that should be used when calculating fuel
known quantity and, in many aircraft, endurance. Most dipsticks are calibrated
by dipping the tanks. There are a number to read the total fuel quantity in the tank,
of considerations that should be borne in which means that the unusable fuel must
mind when determining the fuel available. be subtracted to determine the fuel
available for flight. Care must be taken
Unusable/Usable Fuel when converting between litres, and US
Understanding the difference between or imperial gallons. Calculations should
the terms usable and unusable fuel always be double-checked.
is important in
determining the fuel Cross-section of an aircraft fuel tank (Not to scale)
available for flight.
The unusable fuel is
The usable fuel
the quantity of fuel quantity in this
that cannot be used diagram assumes
in level flight. It is the balanced straight
Usable fuel
and level flight.
quantity remaining This quantity may
in each tank after the vary significantly
Fuel outlet
tank outlet becomes in other flight port
uncovered in level
and balanced flight. Unusable fuel

The amount of To engine

unusable fuel can
Fuel drain point
vary considerably

Fuel Gauges fuel tank modifications carried out
Most fuel gauges read reasonably (eg, long-range tanks fitted) meaning that
accurately, and if they dont, they must only a dipstick specifically calibrated for
be fixed. Gauge accuracy can easily be that aircraft can be used. Unfortunately,
checked before the flight by dipping the dipsticks are sometimes in poor condition
tanks (if that is possible) and comparing and their markings hard to read. If this is
the figures with the actual gauge readings. the case, double-check readings to make
Any discrepancies must be allowed for sure that they seem sensible and arrange
until the problem can be fixed. to get the dipstick re-marked.

Be aware that fuel gauges can stick or

Tank Dipping
fail in flight, sometimes in a subtle way,
so dont rely on higher-than-expected There are several points to consider
readings which seem at odds with expected when dipping fuel tanks, which will help
consumption as the flight progresses. to ensure reasonably accurate readings
Also, in some common aircraft types, are obtained:
fuel gauge indications will vary widely The aircraft should be parked on level
according to the direction and degree ground if this is not possible, dip
of any slip or skid. each tank, turn the aircraft through
Some aircraft have tank designs where a 180 degrees, dip each again, and take
dipstick reading cant be obtained at the average of the two values. This may
certain fuel levels, so the use and accuracy not be accurate, but it will be better
of the fuel gauges becomes even more than either of the two single readings.
important to the pilot. Ensure that the fuel system is not cross-
feeding during dipping. Slope and
Fuel Dipsticks uneven fuel quantities in each tank
Using a fuel dipstick to dip the tanks is can cause this on some aircraft types.
the most accurate way of determining the The trap here is that, when you are
fuel on board. It is therefore important to refuelling the aircraft with the fuel
ensure that you have the correct dipstick selector set to BOTH, the tank that you
for your aircraft. Keep the dipstick clean are filling can be cross-feeding to the
(dont place it on the ground, for instance). other tank. By the time you have
Each dipstick has been specifically finished filling the second tank, the
calibrated to its aircrafts fuel tanks and is quantity in the first tank will have
therefore not interchangeable with that reduced, and it should be checked
from another aircraft, even of the same again and topped up as required.
type which is why it should be carefully The amount involved is not large,
marked with the aircraft registration. but it could cause a problem if the
Aircraft of the same type may have had flight requires both tanks to be full.

Note that cross-feeding during The dipstick should be inserted in the
refuelling, or at any other time, filler neck perpendicular to the wing
can be prevented in most single- surface unless there is another
engine aircraft by selecting either method specified in the Flight Manual
the LEFT or RIGHT tank only. (some aircraft fuel tanks must be
A further point to note is that some dipped on an angle as the main spar
light twins have two or more is directly below the filler neck).
interconnected fuel cells in each Withdraw the dipstick quickly and
wing, which are refuelled from a check the indicated fuel level before
single filler neck. In this case, time evaporation or wicking occur.
must be allowed for the fuel to (Wicking can occur on a wooden
transfer to the other cell as the dipstick; the fuel can soak into the grain
aircraft is being refuelled, in order and cause an over-reading indication.)
to prevent under-fuelling. This is
Beware of false readings where the
especially important for aircraft
dipstick may be resting on a fold or
using Jet A-1, as pump delivery
wrinkle in a bladder-type tank.
rates can be considerably higher
than for avgas. Fuel tanks should always be dipped
after refuelling to establish the exact
amount of fuel on board even after
adding a known quantity of fuel.
Do not rely on someone else to confirm
your aircrafts fuel state. You are the
pilot in command, and you must
complete this task yourself.

No Dipstick?
It is sometimes difficult to determine the
fuel on board aircraft on which the fuel
tanks cannot be accurately dipped. The
safest way is to start the flight with the
tanks either full or filled to a fixed
reference point, and to keep an accurate
in-flight fuel log. If this is not possible,
however, due to weight and balance or
performance considerations, the only way
to know exactly how much fuel is on board
is to add a known quantity (ie, a reading
taken from the fuel pump counter) to a

predetermined reference point inside the strictly adhered to. The following are
tank. Consult the aircraft Flight Manual commonly used pre-takeoff checks to
for specific details. verify fuel supply integrity they relate
to aircraft with a fuel tank selector and
Fuel Thefts an electric fuel boost pump. Consult the
Fuel thefts do occur (especially avgas) aircraft Flight Manual or talk to a senior
when aircraft are left outside overnight. pilot or instructor for checks that are
Fuel theft could mean your getting specific to your aircraft type.
airborne with considerably less fuel on Always check that the fuel selector
board than was planned a very is in the actual detent for the tank
dangerous scenario. This is why dipping required.
should be done just before departure,
Select the least-full tank for engine
not the day before. Fuel theft can also
start this will ensure that there are
mean the introduction of contaminants
no fuel flow problems associated with
(such as water) into the fuel system, as
that tank. Confirm the operation of
caps are often not replaced correctly or
the electric fuel pump by listening for
are left off completely after the theft. a ticking or whirring noise and by
A thorough fuel drain before flight is observing a slight rise in fuel pressure
recommended if foul play is suspected. prior to starting. Confirm that the
engine-driven fuel pump(s) are
operating properly after start by
Pre-Takeoff Checks checking that fuel pressures are
stable with the electric fuel pump(s)
The worst possible time to have an engine
turned OFF.
failure is just after takeoff. Unfortunately,
many engine failures (or partial power
losses) after takeoff are caused by a fuel
Most such incidents are caused by the
selection of a near-empty tank, with pilots
of aircraft with more than two fuel tanks
being more likely to make such a mistake.
A contaminated fuel supply or the mis-
selection of a tank (eg, the fuel selector
inadvertently being placed between a tank
setting and the OFF position) are other
common causes.
These types of incidents can be avoided if
the pre-flight and pre-takeoff checks are

Change to the fullest tank before before takeoff wait until you are at
carrying out the engine run-ups. This a safe height. If there is any problem
allows time for the fuel flow to stabilise with that tank, you dont want to find
and for any contaminants (eg, water) out shortly after getting airborne.)
to pass through to the engine(s) before Double-check that the fuel gauge
the takeoff run starts. It also ensures readings for each tank are what you
that there are no fuel flow problems think they should be, that electric fuel
associated with that tank. It is pumps are on, and that fuel pressures
important to do both a visual and a are normal.
hands-on physical check of the fuel
selection lever(s) here to minimise the Quickly scan the fuel pressure at the
chances of a mis-selection. Cockpit start of the takeoff roll, and dont be
checks, such as confirming the position too hasty to turn the fuel pump(s) off
of the fuel selector, should not be on climb-out. Wait until you have
carried out in an automatic fashion; cleaned the aircraft up, with climb
it requires a moments thought as to power set, and are at a safe height (one
whether the selection you are about that you feel comfortable with if the
to make is going to achieve the desired engine should stop this will depend
result. Pilots of twin-engine aircraft on the terrain). Monitor the fuel
should also check that the fuel cross- pressure for a brief period afterwards.
feed is not selected. (Selecting the If the engine(s) are fuel-injected, be totally
fullest tank should be part of your pre- familiar with the likely symptoms, and
takeoff checks if you then discover required actions, in the event of an engine-
that you are on the least-full tank, driven fuel pump failure during climb-out
do not change tanks immediately or in cruise.

planned consumption rate) from the
In-Flight Fuel known tank quantity recorded on the
Management fuel log. This kind of running total (which
can be recorded in litres and/or in time)
Log Keeping should be kept for all tanks that way
Keep an accurate fuel log. This, in it is possible to see how much fuel
combination with fuel gauge readings, (and/or time) should be in each tank at
is an important part of monitoring your any given time.
fuel status in flight. Be sure to make Some means (eg, circling the current tank
regular reference to it as part of your selection in the fuel-available column) of
cruise checklist that way you will not recording which tank or tanks were selected
forget to monitor consumption and at the noted time should be employed to
change tanks when appropriate. avoid the possibility of confusion.
You will have recorded your engine start Accurate log entries are essential to
time, your takeoff time, which tank(s) were avoid arithmetical errors occurring.
selected, and have determined a land-by Fuel gauge readings should be recorded at
time. After a suitable period (30 minutes is the same time in the neighbouring column,
a suggested figure), change tanks, noting so that any discrepancies can be noted.
the time and the tank(s) selected. Deduct Any significant discrepancy is a good
the fuel used over this period (using the indication that something is wrong.



(hr, min) Fuel Endurance
(hr, min)
for warm-up,
3 hr 22
nce, eg
Standard allowa sumption 10 (usable less extra
taxi and climb)
Warm-up 15 min @ cruise
nd Taxi Safe Endurance rve)
(hr, min)
2 hr 52
Extra required 5 (excludes fixed rese
climb at difference
Climb (typically time to power and cruise
between climb ption rates)
pow er con sum
Land By Time 0407
40 50 (UTC)
Flight Time
(takeoff to landing)
1 hr 15 Fuel

40 20 Tank Gauge
Fixed Reserve 30 Selection
L R L R Reading

- - Time (UTC)

75 75 75/75
- - 0100
Alternate - 55 75 55/75
Aerodrome - 0130
- - 55/55
85 0200 55 55
Minimum Fu el Quantity Requ
35 55 35/55
9 0230
l required)
, 10% of the fue
Contingency (eg
i d 94

Re-check your log entries, and re-work A more specific example: a Piper Cherokee
your fuel calculations if necessary. 140 normally uses 32 litres per hour when
Actions in the event of a low fuel state correctly leaned with 65 per cent power
are discussed later in this booklet. set, giving it an endurance of over five
hours. A combination of increased rpm and
For an inexperienced pilot, the cockpit
incorrect leaning, however, could increase
workload can be high with all the tasks
consumption by as much as 15 per cent.
associated with a cross-country flight.
This equates to a 45-minute reduction in
If you are becoming overloaded and lose
endurance there goes your reserve,
track of what is in each individual tank,
and then some.
remember that the important figure is
your overall fuel quantity (and hence
your land-by time).
See the accompanying sample fuel log
for further details.

Several fuel exhaustion accidents have
highlighted the fact that correctly leaning
the mixture in the cruise is an important
part of in-flight fuel management. Planned
fuel consumption rates, and thus range,
will not be achieved if the mixture is not
correctly leaned.
The mixture should always be leaned
during the cruise (provided that the
desired altitude will be maintained for a
reasonable period of time). Most aircraft
engines can be leaned at any altitude
Leaning procedures vary considerably
provided the power set is 75 per cent or
between aircraft. Some aircraft engines
less. (The oft-quoted figure of 5000 feet
have very basic instrumentation and
is based on the engine being unable to
require the pilot to lean the mixture by
produce more than 75 per cent power, ear and reference to rpm, whereas others
even at full throttle, at that altitude.) have exhaust gas temperature and fuel flow
On some aircraft types, a properly leaned gauges, which allow a far greater degree
engine, at say 4500 feet, can increase your of accuracy. It is important that you are
still-air range by as much as 20 per cent familiar with the correct Flight Manual
compared with not leaning at all at the leaning procedure for the aircraft you fly.
same altitude.

Changing Tanks consumption figures for the aircraft they
Where fitted, the electric fuel pump would are using. As we have mentioned before,
normally be turned on before a new tank fuel consumption rates can vary between
is selected but make sure you know if different aircraft of the same type due to
this applies to your aircraft type. It should their condition, age and the manner in
be left on for a short period after selecting which they are flown.
the new tank and the fuel pressure An accurate fuel log should be kept and
monitored. To prevent having to make a the figures regularly cross-checked with
hasty tank selection, and to provide fuel gauge readings. After the first landing,
continuity of flow, a tank should never be usage figures can be compared with
allowed to run dry. This will introduce air the planned figures. At any stop on a
into the fuel lines and cause the engine to cross-country flight, the tanks should be
falter. On some aircraft types, it can be re-checked with the dipstick.
difficult to restart the engine after running
a tank dry a good reason for avoiding It should be borne in mind that a fuel
this practice. log alone should not be relied on for
monitoring fuel status. Fuel log
Dont change tanks over stretches of
calculations may not take into account
inhospitable terrain or water, and be sure
such factors as: higher-than-expected fuel
of your fuel endurance before committing
consumption rates (from changed power
yourself to flying over such areas. Fuel tank
settings, non-standard fuel-leaning
selection at low altitudes (such as when
techniques or from flying at different
carrying out low flying training) is also not
cruising levels from that planned);
recommended, since it leaves little recovery
inaccurate flying; loss of fuel in flight
time in the event of an erroneous selection.
(eg, a leaking fuel drain, cap or fuel vent);
and under-fuelling before the flight.
In addition, your fuel log calculations will
be flawed if you have made any arithmetical
errors. Total reliance on inadequate fuel
logs has resulted in some aircraft running
out of fuel.
If you can estimate fuel remaining from
reading the gauge(s), then recording such
a figure in a fuel log gives a direct
comparison, even if only an approximate
one. A useful benefit may be a feel for
Monitoring Fuel Quantity what the fuel gauge is telling you; or it
As many pilots fly hired aircraft, it can might be that a higher-than-expected
often be difficult to know precisely the fuel fuel consumption can be spotted early.

The bottom line is that every method Too many accidents have occurred because
and aid you have for monitoring fuel pilots pressed on thinking that they could
quantity should be used. make it. The fact that the aircraft may be
It is interesting to note that a culture of damaged in a precautionary landing should
dismissing fuel gauges as unreliable and not influence this decision aircraft can
therefore ignoring them seems to have always be repaired.
developed among New Zealand general A PAN PAN call should be made on a
aviation pilots. This is most unfortunate, Control or Flight Information frequency,
when you consider the number of fuel advising of the low fuel state and intentions.
starvation or exhaustion incidents where Do not hesitate to request a landing priority
pilots have pressed on with low gauge if the nearest aerodrome is a controlled
readings. one, otherwise controllers may not realise
the urgency of your situation.
Make regular reading of fuel gauges an
integral part of your fuel management It is human nature that, when faced with
strategy. marginal situations, we feel the pressure
to reach our intended destination.
Diversion and Precautionary My passengers need to get to the
Landing destination today, the aircraft has to be
back tomorrow, I dont want anyone to
If a diversion due to enroute or destination
know that I stuffed up, are the types of
weather becomes necessary, you may need
thoughts that usually run through our
to re-plan in flight to a new destination.
minds. Ignore these, and take decisive
Be sure that you apply the same fuel
action to divert or land. Once again, dont
requirements with respect to flight time,
wait until the fuel state becomes critical.
legal reserve and preferably contingency
Always take the safer option of uplifting
to the flight to the new destination.
more fuel en route if there is the slightest
If it becomes apparent that you are running doubt about safety margins being
low on fuel, an early decision should be maintained. Passengers are normally fully
made to divert to the nearest suitable supportive of ample fuel being carried!
aerodrome before the fuel state becomes
critical. This decision should not be delayed. Emergencies
Be familiar with the procedure for setting
If the worst does happen and your engine
correct power and rpm for best range.
stops due to a suspected fuel problem,
If, despite doing this, your fuel situation remember the old adage Aviate, Navigate,
becomes critical, and it is doubtful whether Communicate. Control the aircraft before
there is enough fuel to reach the diversion planning an approach to a forced landing
aerodrome safely (by safely, we mean with area and commencing trouble checks.
your legal reserve intact), then a precau- Regardless of whether you suspect its fuel
tionary landing is the best course of action. starvation or fuel exhaustion, if there is

sufficient time available, close the throttle,
turn the electric fuel pump on, change Post-Flight Actions
tanks (select another tank or cross-feed
the failed engine from an opposite tank if Determining Consumption
flying a twin) and wait for the fuel pump It is a good idea to compare the actual fuel
to restore the flow. It is important that burn with the planned fuel burn by dipping
the new selection be given a reasonable the tanks and reading the gauges after the
amount of time (up to 15 seconds) to take flight (or on landing at an intermediate
effect, as the distance that the fuel has to aerodrome en route). This will provide you
travel can be quite considerable on some with a good consumption figure for future
aircraft types. Vapour lock (air drawn into reference, and allow you to see how
the fuel lines) can exacerbate this problem. accurate your flight planning was. It also
The remainder of the trouble checks should gives you the opportunity to get to know
then be completed. Refer to your aircraft the accuracy of the fuel gauges.
Flight Manual or talk to an instructor/
senior pilot about type-specific engine Refuelling
failure checks.
Ideally, the aircraft should be topped up
If, after having completed these checks, with fuel after the last flight of the day to
you are unsuccessful in restoring power, minimise the chances of condensation
communicate your position and intentions forming inside the tanks, particularly if it
and concentrate on flying a safe approach is going to be parked outside overnight.
dont let yourself become distracted Condensation can form inside a fuel tank
with further trouble checks. when water vapour present in air trapped
Make sure that you are thoroughly in the tank condenses as it is cooled.
familiar with the aircrafts emergency Leaving the tanks full, however, may
procedures. create a weight-and-balance or climb
performance problem for the next pilot,
Pre-Landing Checks either limiting their intended operation,
Ensuring fuel flow integrity for the or requiring defuelling the aircraft.
approach and landing is an important
A further problem with filling the tanks
part of the pre-landing checks. Check the
right up is that, if the temperature rises,
mixture control is in the rich position.
the fuel will expand and overflow from
The fuel pump(s) should be switched on,
the tanks, creating a possible fire hazard
if applicable, and the fullest tank(s)
(not to mention being a waste of fuel).
selected before commencing an approach.
The fuel pressure should also be checked Fuel theft is also a consideration.
to ensure it is normal. Try to determine what the aircraft will be
next used for before deciding whether or
not to top it up.

Always plan for en-route refuelling stops,
Summary and use them to ensure safe margins of
fuel are maintained at all times.
When handling fuel: Be thoroughly familiar with the usable
Understand the characteristics of fuel. and unusable fuel quantities for all the
aircraft types you fly, and be sure to dip
Minimise the chances of a fire or
the tanks accurately with the aircrafts
explosion when refuelling by
own dipstick before every flight. Always
observing the general precautions
know exactly how much fuel is on board
and appropriate bonding actions before getting airborne.
that have been outlined.
Be aware that fuel theft can and does
Know what to do in the event of a happen, and take appropriate measures
fuel spill. to minimise the chances of it occurring.
Be careful when refuelling from Do your pre-takeoff checks thoroughly.
drums or jerrycans, as these can Know the correct mixture leaning
be susceptible to water and dirt procedure for the aircraft, and lean the
contamination. mixture in the cruise whenever possible.
Always take a fuel sample before the Keep an accurate in-flight fuel log,
first flight of the day and after and regularly cross-check it with fuel
refuelling (wait for the tank contents gauge readings.
to settle first). Dont hesitate to divert or carry out a
precautionary landing should you
Above all, dont let yourself become
become uncertain about your fuel state.
complacent about refuelling.
You must always plan to land with your
To minimise the chances of legal reserve intact.
unexpectedly running out of fuel: Be familiar with the trouble checks, and
Become thoroughly familiar with the know how to prioritise your actions in
fuel systems for the aircraft you fly. the event of an engine failure.
Regularly dip the tanks after flight to
Know the fuel consumption rates for
determine the aircrafts actual fuel
different altitude and rpm combinations.
consumption rate.
Know the manifold pressure and rpm
for maximum range. Answer to question on page 17: It would
take a headwind of only 10 knots for this to
Exercise care when flight planning, happen. Note, however, that any reduction
and ensure that your fuel-required in the originally anticipated tailwind would
calculations allow for forecast require either more fuel to start with, or an
enroute fuel stop to ensure that the reserve
headwinds, possible diversions, legal is not compromised.
reserves and a contingency.

PO Box 3555
Wellington 6140
Tel: +64 4 560 9400
Fax: +64 4 569 2024

Fuel Management was revised in March 2013.

See our web site,, for details of more CAA safety publications.