One of the first thing the pilot of a small airplane learns to do is pre-flight his aircraft, and one of the things most important to check is the fuel. While not hard to do, relying upon fuel gauges can be very costly. Notoriously unreliable, fuel gauges have led many a good pilot to a not so soft landing as a direct result of fuel starvation!
More Common Than You Think
In February Avweb's Mary Grady interviewed Bruce Landsberg, President of AOPA Foundation and the Air Safety Institute, to discuss the issue of fuel starvation. Landsberg said that these types of incidents and accidents are far more common than one would imagine. For example, on average aircraft accidents as a result of fuel starvation occur about twice per week. Imagine that - twice per week! Does nobody check their fuel anymore?
An Interactive Map
Mismanagement Or Stupidity?
Landsberg posits that fuel starvation accidents have decreased in recent years due to new technology, but one wonders if the reduction in flight hours might not be a more reasonable reason for the reduction. He believes that inaccurate fuel gauges are the culprit because fuel gauges are only required to be accurate for two conditions: Full and Empty! Not much help there!
Isn't Good Enough!
I have been working with my godson who just got his first vehicle - an old beater Chevy S10 truck. First thing I did was have him fill the tank, record the mileage, drive for a few days, fill her up, check the mileage and calculate how many miles per gallon (on average) he is getting. When I taught student pilots to fly one of the first things I did was teach them to NOT rely on the fuel gauges, and to calculate their average fuel usage for each flight. Because we could always start with full fuel we knew how long we could fly with adequate reserves.
So Why Do Pilots Run Out Of Fuel?
Landsberg believes that fuel starvation is the result of pilot's risk tolerance. Years ago he suggested to Cessna that they add low fuel warning lights for when fuel gets low. The problem with this is where you are when the lights come on. In the end the pilot in command is responsible for the safety of the both the aircraft and its occupants, so as pilots we need to reduce our risk tolerance and learn how to make sure we have adequate fuel on board to avoid a fuel starvation accident.
What About You?
How do you make sure you have adequate fuel for your flight? Leave a comment below. In the meantime keep your wings straight and level Hersch! Please share "Why I Almost Made It Isn't Good Enough" with your friends using the buttons below. Thanks! Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7+ ps: Don't forget to sign up for updates via email for "All Things Aviation" here!