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Fuel Planning,Endurance and Fuel Problems...by Cem Kurkcu

Fuel,it is essential for any sort of machine to work. However, it really means more than that to pilots, especially for helo pilots who fly over different regions, terrain and water. There is no excuse for fuel problems. Whatever goes wrong with fuel, eventually the helicopter loses substantial power, because piston or turbine engine runs inefficently, the worst situation is an unexpected engine flame out at an unexpetd time,over an unexpected place. This combination is intimidating.

When talking about fuel,i think that most of the helo pilots agree on 3 problem areas:

1.Fuel contamination: Water,dust or other materials gets in fuel.
2.Fuel starvation: When any sub-system of the engine fuel system fails or runs improperly, the fuel pump,broken links,maybe a blockage in the pipes or even a small hole in the tank which allows the fuel to leak.
3.Fuel exhaustion: The pilot's improper fuel management.

There are not many things to deal with the problems #1 and #2 in the operational areas, but i like to focus on the fuel exhaustion. Actually it seems quite easy. At least, there is a fuel lever gauge on the instrument panel, also "fuel low" warning light which advises you to be careful about your fuel level. Surprisingly,hundreds of pilots miss this basic process. Reports prove that "fuel exhaustion" is the main reason for many helicopter accidents.

Frankly speaking, i relieve when i see my fuel level gauge needle goes down, especially with heavy loads. Unfortunately, having very low fuel in order to minimize weight and increase helicopters lifting capability could result in a catastrophe. I don't even want to talk about faulty measurement of fuel quantity, failure of the fuel low
warning system. Because, helo pilots are "out" most of the time!!!

There are some methods for fuel management. I am sure everyone has his/her own methods,but let me write down mine. I use it with UH-1 Huey and UH-60 Sikorsy. My example is going to be for UH-1 Huey with T-53-L703 engine.Assume i have 1300 lb. JP-8 in the tanks.
As soon as level flight is established, I record the level flight Tq,N1,TGT and fuel level with time. Let's say 1200 lb. at 10:15.At 10:30 i check the fuel gauge, i see 1060 lb. which means my engine burns 140*4=560 lb. per hour. To find my "full burn" and "20 minute fuel", i make some more calculations. Full burn: 1060/560=01hr:53 min., it is 10:30+01:53=12:23 and 20 minute fuel is 12:23-00:20=12:03. These numbers really help you for making the best decision about the fuel. And it is always good to know your max.range speed at your gross weight. Do not hesistate to take a close look at your cruise chart. It'd take 20 minutes, but it is better than waiting for hours for a fuel truck or a fuel drum.

I think everbody has a story about "FUEL", let JH arena know this experience...

Thanks for reading and land safely with extra fuel in your tanks... Smile



Posted in: Safety


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