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By Dan Sobczak
Editor's note: This content does not constitute flight instruction. Consult a certified flight instructor in your area for proper flight instruction.
Among NTSB accident reports involving general aviation, we read too often of accidents caused by fuel exhaustion, fuel starvation, or fuel planning errors.
While 'bingo fuel' is a military slang term that should not be used in general aviation -- see this Boldmethod story about why that is -- it is a good concept to adhere to as a general aviation pilot in determining, and sticking to, your own personal fuel minimums.
While some fuel-related accidents are caused by mechanical-related issues, there are too many that involve the pilot and his or her pre-flight fuel planning.
As of December 2020, Flight Chain App's Trends feature shows that -- among NTSB accident reports -- there were almost 11,000 accident types involving fuel management issues.
Of those accident types, almost 4,000 accident causes involved flight planning issues.
Two screenshots from Flight Chain App's 'Trends' feature show that, as of December 2020, there were almost 11,000 accident types involving fuel management issues. Of those, nearly 4,000 accident causes involved flight planning issues.
Frank Ayers over at Plane & Pilot shared a great column recently about setting personal minimums for fuel ("Pro Tips For Private Pilots: What Is Your 'Bingo Fuel?'") to avoid running out of gas.
"The No. 1 cause of general aviation aircraft landing on highways and farm fields, rather than the intended airport, is fuel mismanagement and exhaustion. When done well, this off-airport landing is often followed by the obligatory interview on the local news at 10, explaining why you landed on that highway just a wee bit short of the local airport! On the other hand, military and professional pilots, who often have significantly lower fuel-endurance margins to work with, have a much better record. We rarely, if ever, hear of a jet aircraft running out of fuel inflight. How do they do this? One answer is the military concept of 'bingo fuel,' or personal fuel minimums."
While I won't go into all the detail that Frank shares -- you can read his entire column here -- I do want to share the three simple steps he discusses that will help you as a general aviation pilot compute your own 'bingo fuel' personal minimum for your general aviation aircraft:
Be sure to read the details he shares about each step -- which includes tips for fuel system operations among high-elevation pilots versus sea-level pilots, and examples of how you can establish your personal minimum fuel.
Of course, no fuel management plan will ever be reliable if you're not reliable as the pilot in command in adhering to your personal minimums. As Frank wrote:
"This concept only works if you figure out your personal fuel minimums and then stick to them. No rationalizing that the gauges are reading low, no hoping you can eke out a few more miles, and no trying to squeeze in one more pattern."
The Flight Chain App team
Dan Sobczak is the founder of www.FlightChainApp.com, a mobile app that helps pilots learn from accident chains by making NTSB reports more convenient and easier to digest. Dan received his private pilot certificate in 2003.
Flight Chain App and its companion blog www.AheadOfThePowerCurve.com are committed to reducing general aviation accidents, helping improve aviation safety, and growing the pilot population.
The only aviation accident app that helps you see and understand the accident chain from NTSB reports.
Flight Chain App and its blog Ahead of the Power Curve are committed to reducing general aviation accidents, helping improve aviation safety, and growing the pilot population.