Know your fuel consumption

Update: WordPress tells me that this is my 100th post. Whoopie!

Update 2: I went for another test flight on Friday, and the problem is fixed.

When you land after a flight, do you know — within a gallon/a few liters — how much fuel your plane should take? Some people always take off with full tanks and limit their legs to 2-3 hours, so they figure they never have to worry.

On Tuesday, I took my Warrior for its second post-maintenance test flight. I started with full tanks, flew for 2.75 hours at 75% power, then filled up again. The plane took 146 liters of fuel, over 50% more than expected, indicating that I landed with less than 45 minutes of fuel remaining. Upon closer investigation, there was some blue staining on the wing and a bit of streaking coming from under the left side of the cowling. My new fuel pump was leaking, throwing fuel overboard as I flew. I probably leaked fuel on my first flight as well, but since I didn’t start with full tanks, it was harder to be certain (I mentioned my concern to my AME then, but we saw no evidence of leaks inside the cowling).

I’m glad that I insisted on a second test flight before making the 800 nm trip to Atlanta, but I’m also glad that I routinely track my fuel consumption and know what to expect at the pump — it’s as important as being able to read the panel instruments during flight. Unlike a Cessna (with its “both” fuel setting), my Piper would have warned me of a problem when the first tank ran dry, giving me a few minutes to land with the remaining tank, but fortunately it didn’t come to that. A new fuel pump will arrive by courier tomorrow (Thursday) morning from the engine shop.

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About David Megginson

Scholar, tech guy, Canuck, open-source/data/information zealot, urban pedestrian, language geek, tea drinker, pater familias, red tory, amateur musician, private pilot.
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