Never Run Out of Gas. This is Rule One.
Imagine, if you will, that you are in an airplane ten thousand feet in the sky, the wind whistling against the airframe, the engine droning its song of thrust while the prop pulls you through the air. Now imagine running out of gas, the prop stops puling, and the engine goes silent, leaving you with nothing but the wind. Well, the wind and gravity, and also the ground which, thanks to Mistress Gravity, seems to be getting closer and will become a pressing concern shortly.
The one mistake I told myself I would never make in an airplane is fuel starvation. At no time would I ever take off or continue a flight if I thought I was cutting it close on fuel. Not only does it result in a dangerous situation, it makes you look very un-cool. And if you can’t look cool being a pilot, what’s the point?
There are a lot of considerations to take into account when planning a flight, but to me, none are so important as to set aside Rule One. When planning my legs to Airventure, there are many factors to take into consideration. How much Gas I have in the tank is one consideration, how much money is it going to take to fill up the tank is another. But the overriding consideration is Rule One. Is my destination within the range and more importantly, is there an alternate destination within 30 minutes of my primary landing airport, and does this alternate sell gas? It’s somewhat surprising to note the number of airports that don’t sell gas, and therefore have to be taken out of consideration as alternate landing runways. In the interest of Rule One, and possibly to the detriment of efficiency, I have planned all my legs with one hour of reserve, rather than the standard 30 Minutes. I like safety, it keeps me safe.
Naturally, the ever changing fuel prices can also put a cramp in your fuel/flight planning. Fortunately there are some great tools for pilots nowadays. www.airnav.com lets FBOs list there fuel prices, www.100ll.com is a website dedicated to just reporting fuel prices, AOPA members have access to the AOPA database that also lists fuel prices. With all of this, I have been able to plan all of my legs with reasonable fuel prices, and reasonable safety.