August 2018 Safety Corner

Although accidents overall have decreased, we still have accidents each year that result from fuel exhaustion, fuel starvation and fuel contamination. This always boggles my mind because these are certainly easy remedies. We’ve seen some incidents of this around MLE. According to the latest AOPA report, there have been more than 1,500 accidents in the past decade that have resulted from poor fuel management. In 2017
alone, there were 57 fuel exhaustion accidents that resulted in four fatalities. There were 20 more accidents – two fatal – from fuel starvation (which means there was fuel on board but the flow was in some way interrupted). Another 10 accidents were attributed to fuel contamination. Fuel exhaustion, fuel starvation, and fuel contamination can easily be controlled or avoided with proper diligence on the part of the pilot- in- command – that’s YOU.

When you’re flying club planes, please make sure your pre-flight is thorough. Turn on the master and see what the tank reading is and then check it visually to see if it matches up – if possible. Remember, the gauge readings are to be taken with a HUGE grain of salt, before AND during the flight. Know what you have and understand what your fuel burn is and do some calculating. Take time to sump the tanks completely, looking for water, sediment, bubbles, etc., AND making sure you have the right color
(blue for 100LL). Keep the tanks full during the winter to help fight off water contamination. Above all, understand the fuel system of the plane you are flying and exactly how many gallons it will hold.
If you just refueled, wait about 15 minutes before sumping fuel out. That will give time for water, sediments, etc., to settle to the sump itself before being purged. When flying cross country trips, think also in terms of hours and minutes, and not just gallons of fuel – depending on your mixture adjustment. The POH gives you the fuel burn in perfect conditions or situations. Rarely is flying an older plane in VARIOUS weather conditions BOOK PERFECT when it comes to calculating fuel burn. During a long
cross country, update your fuel status constantly to make sure your fuel burn is not more than you expected. If you’re flying the Arrow or Bonanza, make sure you change the
tanks every 30 minutes. The GPS has an automatic notification every 30 minutes that is already set (although you can set that for any time), so don’t just blow it off. Fuel starvation is not unusual in planes that have dual tanks – especially when pilots aren’t paying attention to fuel consumption or watching the fuel gauges. In our club planes, it’s a good idea to carry more than the FAR fuel required fuel reserves – if at all possible. Landing with less than one hour of fuel left in the tanks is foolish, especially when you consider changing weather conditions, changes in plans, and/or the onset of
nightfall. Keep in mind that improper balancing of fuel on long cross-country flights may result in some real surprises when it comes to landing the plane.

Above all, always take every opportunity to carry a little extra fuel if your weight & balance allows. You never know when it might come in handy.

Kevin Broderick, ATP, CFII, Skyhawk Flying Club Safety Officer