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Your Aircraft’s Fuel System: Be Safe, Be Legal, Be Smart

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 November 2012

Improper fuel management, contamination and poor preflight planning cause far too many GA accidents; statistics reveal nearly two accidents per week on average. Whether the result of fuel exhaustion, improper planning or mechanical issues, the majority of these fuel mishaps are easily preventable.



However basic a fuel system may seem, as pilot in command it is important to know the system’s design and operation. Figures such as unusable fuel and total capacity, what fuel is considered part of the empty weight of the aircraft, and what type and grade of fuel is approved for your aircraft are essential information.

All aircraft fuel tanks must be marked to indicate the fuel capacity, type, and grade of fuel required. Aircraft modified by STC for the use of auto fuel should include this information as well.

There are operational issues specific to a make and model of aircraft to consider when operating an aviation fuel system. What fuel tank will be used for takeoff and landing? Does the center of gravity change with fuel burn? When is an auxiliary fuel pump used? What is the recommended sequence of fuel burn from multiple fuel tanks, and why?

Some aircraft return excess fuel to a single tank and if that fuel tank is full, return fuel will drain overboard. Does a tiptank installation allow for increased gross weight, and what are the restrictions? What would be the maximum imbalance allowed between fuel tanks?

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