How to Avoid Dangers of Fuel Starvation in Aircraft

Ensuring your aircraft has enough fuel for the duration of the flight is an important part of any preflight check. Many accidents have happened in the past when the aircraft engine do not get fuel.

Fuel emergencies are of two types:

  1. Fuel Exhaustion: In this the aircraft runs out of fuel while still in air. It may be because of insufficient refueling or it flew for longer duration than planned.

  2. Fuel Starvation: It is more of an cockpit trouble. Meaning there is fuel on board but for some reason it is not reaching the engine.

To avoid encountering fuel starvation, pilots should perform the following checks diligently:

  • Before any flight check all the fuel tank vent lines thoroughly – particular attention should be paid to outside temperature if it is at or below freezing point. It may result ice in the vent lines. Obstruction can also be caused due to insects swarming around the airplane.

  • All fuel drains should be “sumped” properly before flight – It is important to remove contamination before flight. In case you are not able to obtain fuel sample from the drain it may indicate presence of ice crystals and / or contamination in the fuel tank, and calls for an investigation.

  • Visual inspection of the fuel tank is important to make sure the tanks are full.

  • When fuel tanks are switched during flight, make sure to monitor EGT, fuel pressure, and other gauges that provides the status of engine power. Wait for few seconds before you remove your hand from the fuel selector handle. The engine should keep running smoothly.

  • Final fuel tank selection should be made before approach or landing. It should be done at least 1000 feet above terrain. Many pilots make the final tank selection just before they start to descend from cruise. Use the tank that has enough fuel for making an approach, missed approach / go around and climbing to 1000 feet AGL.

You should not switch fuel tanks when you perform the “GUMP” check (gas, undercarriage, mixture and prop) in retractable-gear aircraft particularly at low altitude as you will not be left with enough time to respond in case the engine stops.

Your checklist is an important part of flying and it should be used as and when recommended. You should not rely on your memory while making the necessary checks and changes during different phases of flight.

Also Read: Do You Rely More on Your Memory or on Checklist during Flight?

These checks are not only important, but they become critical in the following conditions:

  • When you plan to use the cross feed system in twins or use multiple fuel tanks.

  • When the aircraft was parked outside in freezing temperatures or precipitation.

  • When the auxiliary tank fuel has been included in planning for alternates.

  • When it has been nearly a month since such checks were performed the last time.

  • When the first flight is made after aircraft inspection, modification or maintenance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *