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VFR CROSS-COUNTRY FUEL REQUIREMENTS




As a student pilot it is very important to learn how to plan your fuel and fuel alternate requirements for the required cross-country flights. It is part of being a good and safe pilot, as well as being familiar with the FAA regulations. We as pilots VFR or IFR continue to plan your fuel even long after you become a private pilot, commercial pilot or even an ATP.


When planning a cross-country flight under VFR conditions there a few requirements and tips you need to learn.


On VFR sectional charts fuel is indicated by the tick marks on the airport symbols.




FAA Fuel Regulation:

All pilots must be familiar with the regulations in the FARAIM. FAR Part 91.151 says, let’s simplify it for VFR pilots:

  • Day VFR – enough fuel to fly to your first landing point. Plus have 30 minutes of fuel remaining at normal cruise speed.

  • Night VFR - enough fuel to fly to your first landing point. Plus have 45 minutes of fuel remaining at normal cruise speed.



Personal Standards (comfort zone):

When you are flying cross-country, you don’t know what Mother Nature can throw at you. The winds aloft may change and know you fighting a strong head wind. Or the weather has changed rapidly at you intended landing point.


Set your own comfort zone (personal standards). First off, never trust the fuel gauges in the airplane.


Here is my comfort zone (personnel fuel standards) when I go flying:

  1. Always fly with the fuel tanks full. (More fuel gives you a lot of time and options.)

  2. 3-hour fights (from engine start to shut down) Never trust what the Pilot Operation Handbook (POH) of a particular aircraft says. (If the POH says the airplane can go for 4 ½ hours, DO NOT test it and become a statistic.)

If you are flying a over 500 – 1,000NM which can take 10-12 or so hours, making a lot of short 2 ½ to 3-hour flights and taking longer to get to your destination is being safe. This gives you options (weather, strong headwinds, emergency, etc.) and a good comfort zone. It also allows you to take a break, use the restroom, refresh your mind, and keeps you alert and not becoming fatigued too quickly.



Fuel:

If the fuel needed for the airplane is not available at your destination airport, but the next higher-grade fuel is available, it is ok to use the next higher grade as a substitute. Never use a lower grade of fuel.


DO NOT use automobile gas in an aircraft engine.



Planning Tips:

Top 2 MOST IMPORTANT! Tips -

  1. ALWAYS, per the checklist sump the fuel tanks and check for water or contaminants.

  2. Also ALWAYS, secure fuel caps after you check the tank and double-check them before engine start. (See: Real World Scenario)


Make sure that the airport you are planning on flying too has fuel and the correct fuel available. Call ahead and check. You don’t want to land and find out the fuel pump is broke or there is no fuel available.


It is always recommended to plan for an alternate in case of unplanned weather that may come up, or an airport closure due to construction, aircraft accident.


Determine available fuel in hours and minutes instead of gallons or pounds, and plan to land with at least an hour of usable fuel.

  • ATC may ask for fuel in hours and minutes, if you open a flight plan inflight, you need ATC assistance or need to declare an emergency. Sometimes ATC will just ask.


Remember:

  • Day VFR – enough fuel to fly to your first landing point. Plus have 30 minutes of fuel remaining at normal cruise speed.

  • Night VFR - enough fuel to fly to your first landing point. Plus have 45 minutes of fuel remaining at normal cruise speed.



Real World Scenario:

This actually happen one afternoon, when I was getting ready to go flying. I was out doing the preflight on an airplane at a particular flight school. After the walk around preflight inspection was completed, I climbed up to check the fuel level in each tank and verify the fuel caps where on and secured.


I happened to notice that the previous pilot did not secure the fuel cap on the left fuel tank after putting fuel in the airplane from the previous flight. The cap was laying on top of the wing, near the fill hole, as seen in the picture.

Fuel cap not installed. (Actual pictures)



Reference:




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