The Safety Corner

Assistant Chief Pilot Pete A. Rafle

I still read and hear stories about fuel management errors that lead to an aircraft incident.

If you fly a Cessna high wing aircraft then your goal is to not run out of fuel. Leave the fuel selector in both and keep track of the fuel usage during the flight. You do not need to plan for switching tanks. Flight plan to have no less than the required minimum fuel at your destination plus the required reserves if IFR and needing to include an alternate in your flight plan.

It is all of you who fly low wing Pipers, Mooneys, Bonanzas, etc. Who need to know your airplane’s unique in-flight fuel management procedures. Know the capacities of those tip tanks. Remember that even with a fuel gauge labeled ” Tip tank, L, R “, that gauge is only accurate when empty! Nothing, and I mean nothing, will release adrenalin like the sudden cough, sputter, and drop in rpm of an engine that has just sipped the last drop of fuel from a tip tank.

Careful timing on right and left tanks to keep each side balanced is the basic discipline required for low wing airplanes. 30 to 45 minutes on each side is the unusual method used. If you have auxiliary tanks or tip tanks, you usually need to burn down the mains before drawing down those other tanks. Time the draw down so that a small amount still remains in the tips. That way, you will avoid the trauma of the dreaded sputter! Followed by the approach and landing to some farmer’s corn field.