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4 Answers

Emergency Fuel

Asked by: 6208 views ,
Commercial Pilot, FAA Regulations

Though it might be very rare, sometimes pilot might need to declare Emergency Fuel to the ATC, so that ATC will offer this aircraft with priority landing.

My question is - what is the creteria to determine whethere this aircraft is in under emegency fuel situation. Is it determined by % of the fuel left? Or another condictions ?

Your kind response will be highly appreciated.


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4 Answers

  1. Paul Tocknell on Nov 23, 2010

    This is actually a much discussed topic on which the FAA has offered some guidance in the form of a IFO or Information for Operators.  An IFO’s target audience would be airlines, charter companies and other open for public operators


    This IFO helps define minimum fuel, emergency fuel and reserve fuel definitions.   Again, although the target audience might not be GA, I think there is a lot we can take away from this document.

    Minimum fuel (from the AIM)

    “Indicates that an aircraft’s fuel supply has reached a state where, upon reaching the destination, it can accept little or no delay. This is not an emergency situation but merely indicates an emergency situation is possible should any undue delay occur.”

    Emergency Fuel (industry accepted definition)

    “The point at which, in the judgment of the pilot-in-command, it is necessary to proceed directly to the airport of intended landing due to low fuel. Declaration of a fuel emergency is an explicit statement that priority handling by ATC is both required and expected.”

    I personally would declare an emergency due to fuel if I felt that fuel exhaustion was a definite possibility with a delay of any sort.

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  2. Anais on Nov 23, 2010

    Thank you for the response, Paul. But how do the pilots know it’s time to declare a emergency fuel situation to ATC? Is there any specific threshold number for pilots to determine whether it’s such a situation?

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  3. Eric Gideon on Nov 24, 2010

    There is not. As Paul quoted, the pilot’s judgment is the final call on whether or not to make a declaration.

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  4. Best Answer

    Matthew Waugh on Dec 02, 2010

    As Eric points out, it’s a pilot decision (well crew decision I hope).
    We know how much fuel we have on-board, we know how much fuel the computer thinks we’ll need to get to the airport and we know what the airline considers to be the reserve fuel amount.
    The reserve fuel amount is a joke – the airlines increasingly get the FAA to approve ridiculous conditions for them to calculate the reserve fuel amount so that they can carry as little fuel as possible and save a few precious dollars. So crews typically add a little to that to get their reserve fuel number.
    The computers calculation makes some assumptions, so the crew will add something to that based on their experience with the plane and the arrival airport.
    It should never really get to an emergency fuel situation – if you’re watching the fuel numbers as you should be then you should be on the ground before it becomes an issue – you may not be on the ground at your destination – but on the ground.
    In the crews I flew with the worse case scenario was to land with reserve fuel on-board. If that meant diverting to land with reserve fuel so be it. Reserve is reserve, and it was only to be used in an unforseen circumstance – and touch wood we always forsaw the circumstances and  bailed out.
    Airline management would argue that reserve fuel is there to be used – so it would be perfectly OK, in their opinion, to use reserve fuel on departure vectoring and arrive in the terminal area with minimum fuel – but I don’t know of a professional crew that would do that.
    Hmmmm – I got off on a bit of a rant about airline fuel planning there didn’t I. Sore subject.

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