As a student pilot, I’m learning a lot of things. I’m learning about weather, airspace, cross country flight planning, radio communications, lots of things! I have a very conscientious instructor, one that makes sure that things are done just so to ensure the safe operation of every flight. Not just our flights, but the flights after ours. One of the habits she has instilled in me is fueling the plane after (nearly) every flight. Now I’m getting flight training at a pretty kick @$$ flight school with a pretty kick @$$ FBO attached to it in Spencer Aircraft. If I asked someone at Spencer to fuel up the plane I just flew, they would. Do I necessarily like lugging this huge hose out to the plane, climbing up on a ladder, occasionally spraying cool blue 100 Low Lead Aviation Gas all over? No. I really don’t. So why do I do it?
Well besides being the courteous thing to do, there’s one really important reason, for me anyway. As a pilot, we need to know the POH (Pilot’s Operating Handbook) for the plane we’re flying inside and out. What’s the speed for Vx? Vy? Vfe? What is best glide speed should the engine quit mid flight to give you the most time to find a suitable place to land? The POH also gives us the rate of fuel burn at various altitudes and power configurations. And it can vary wildly. So as a student pilot that is now doing solo cross country flights, fuel burn has become more important than when I was just doing laps in the pattern.
If I leave the airport with 42 gallons of fuel on board, and the POH says I’m going to burn 1.1 gallons on taxi and takeoff, and then I’m going to fly somewhere an hour away and the POH says at that altitude and power setting, I’ll burn 7.3 gallons, then I land, take a selfie, get back in the plane and come home, all tolled I “should” have burned approximately 16.8 gallons of fuel. The ONLY way for me to know that is to put fuel back in the plane. OK yes, I could just “stick” the tanks, but to be honest, I don’t put a whole lotta faith in those little glass tubes.
If I get back and put 15.5 gallons of fuel in, great, I was being conservative with my estimates (which I always try to be) and now I know a little more about the airplane I’m flying. If I get back and have to put 17.5 gallons in, I know to be MORE conservative next time. I don’t ever want to look at my passenger one day and say “We should have enough gas to get back” I want to know.
John Zimmerman’s article “Stop and Smell The AVGas” inspired this post this morning. Keep learning everyone!