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Fuelish Thoughts

by David Wyndham 1. October 2005 00:00
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Even adjusting for inflation, aviation fuel prices are at their highest point and operators  all across aviation are feeling the hit. What can you do as an operator to try and mitigate these price increases?
 
Wash your airplane. This does two things, one it allows you to work off some of the frustration at the price of fuel, and two, it removes bugs and dirt that increase drag and rob you of fuel. While you are at it, clean the interior. No airplane has too much payload capability and there is no need to carry around excess. Dirt, empty bottles, outdated maps are all weight that is not needed. And as you know, heavy airplanes burn more fuel than light ones.
 
Get out your caulk gun. Not really, but poor seals around doors and windows also can rob you of the smooth airflow the fuel efficient flying demands. Checking your control rigging to make sure that the controls are correct in their position also can help reduce drag. I know this sounds more like something an air racer would do, but a little but here and there adds up. Doing the above may only net you one percent reduction in fuel used, but it's something.
 
One big way to save fuel is to slow down. Airplanes save time, time is money, etc. However, reducing from maximum cruise to a lower, more fuel friendly, power setting can save money. A Cessna 206 at 8,000 feet burns anywhere between 11 and 15 gallons per hour, depending on power settings. Even adjusting for speed, the lower power setting reduces fuel consumed per mile by 9%. At $4 per gallon that is like getting a $0.36 per gallon discount. In a Citation II, the difference between High Speed Cruise and Long Range Cruise saves about 5% in fuel consumed per mile.
 
Choosing your altitude wisely can also reduce fuel used. While ATC doesn't always accommodate, the longer your trip, the better off you are flying high. Get back into the performance charts and figure out the best combinations of power and altitude for your airplane.
 
Shop around. If there are multiple FBO's, see who has the better prices. GlobalAir.com and others offer fuel price reports for most FBO's in the US. Use your airport guide and call. Ask if there are discounts at home station.  There may be club discounts, association discounts, etc. available.  Maybe the FBO at your home has a pre-purchase option. Sure, I doubt you'd get a positive response with your small piston, but you never know unless you ask. So, ask.
 
Tanker fuel. If fuel on the road is higher in cost than fuel at home, carry as much extra fuel on board as you can to minimize the cost. Do keep in mind that carrying extra weight causes you to burn more fuel in longer climb times and higher fuel burns at cruise. In a Cessna 206, the fuel used to climb to 8000 feet at 3300 lbs take-off weight is 27% more than at 3000 lbs. In a Citation II, a thousand extra pounds of weight increases your fuel flow at altitude by about 8%. Again, get into your performance charts and figure out the penalty for carrying extra weight and see what the cost versus savings is when tankering fuel.
 
Do you have other fuel saving tips? Do you tanker fuel, and if so do you have a rule of thumb that you use? Reply back and let me know.

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David Wyndham



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