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Rules to Live By

SAFETY SPOTLIGHT: Fuel Management

Aerial photography of a Cessna 172 flying over the Flint Hills and El Dorado Lake and I-35 on a hazy afternoon.
El Dorado, KS   USA
Image#: 06-541_362.dng   Camera: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II

Of all the factors that lead to aircraft accidents, fuel is one of the easiest to address. If you know your fuel system, verify that you have the right type and quantity of fuel, lean your engine properly, and stay alert to changing conditions, the odds of a fuel-related incident are virtually nonexistent.

Keep these points in mind:

  • Fueling. Be present every time your aircraft is fueled: State fuel grade, quantity, and tanks to be filled.
  • Know what’s in your tanks—check for water or contaminants and verify they are filled with the proper fuel grade.
  • Secure fuel caps after you check the tank.
  • Determine available fuel in hours and minutes instead of gallons and pounds.
  • Lean the mixture to achieve the best performance, range, and endurance.
  • Recalculate range and endurance hourly to maintain adequate fuel reserves.
  • Land with at least one hour of fuel.
  • Know the fuel system—understand how and when to use boost pumps, auxiliary tanks, and fuel transfer pumps.
  • Use a timer to remind you to switch tanks during flight.
  • Switch tanks before reaching pattern altitude.
  • Land as soon as possible if you’re low on fuel.
  • Declare a fuel emergency with ATC to get priority handling.