Last week we discussed how there is too much extraneous information in the FAR/AIM book, and many of you agreed. One area that is very straightforward pertains to how much fuel is required. The FARs are unambiguous for both VFR and IFR operations. Two recent accidents illustrate the wisdom of having enough gas to go the distance and then some.
In January, a relatively new instrument pilot crashed after his Piper Arrow ran out of fuel on approach to Dover AFB. This was after attempting approaches at four other airports in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The preliminary report did not show the forecast or how widespread the low IFR conditions were, but it reinforces the point that flying 50 or even 100 miles to an alternate may not get you to a place where you can get on the ground with certainty.
On one of my flights in a Cessna 182 into a low weather system, it was prudent to land short before even burning half a tank. Taking on additional fuel made it possible to fly back out of the entire system if needed. It also provided great peace of mind and steadied the hand when shooting a low approach.
Last week another flight involved a Cirrus SR-20 that came up short on a VFR flight. The CFI pulled the parachute. There were no injuries, although the aircraft was much the worse for wear. It was a familiarization flight and the aircraft was about three miles from the runway when the engine quit. Less than a quart of fuel remained on board. I spoke with Mary Grady on an AVweb podcast about this issue and these two accidents.
Some say parachutes are for sissies, but in this case perhaps three lives were saved, whereas in the Arrow the pilot died. With the Cirrus accident, there will be some explaining to do, but sacrificing the aircraft is always the correct choice.
I shamelessly promote two fuel management Pilot Safety Announcements which you may find amusing: Hybrid Power and Would You Fly This Airline? Better yet—pass them along to anyone who thinks fuel rules are foolish.
Lest you think that these are isolated incidents, take a look at our incident/accident map.
These Pilot Safety Announcements from the Air Safety Institute are just part of what the AOPA Foundation does to help general aviation improve its safety record. And your support keeps those efforts alive. Consider a donation today so that we may continue providing these free educational resources for pilots everywhere.