Friday, August 01, 2014

Drawing From Both Bags

When I get to the airport company sent me to in the previous post, there is a NOTAM on the ATIS  for fire fighting operations on the edge of the control zone. There's a forest fire. I should have checked NOTAMs during the diversion. I did tell Centre were were headed here, and I hope they would have mentioned it had the airport been actually closed. When told to divert, I had just enough fuel to get here with thirty minute reserve, and I accepted the mission.  There were other airports available en route if I had had an emergency, but I'm almost here now.

Some people are going to think that it is irresponsible to plan to land with only 30 minutes reserve. Most private pilots plan a healthier margin.  But there's a business margin to be considered too, and if I waste an hour of the day descending, fulling and climbing back up again, will there be money in the bank account to pay for tires, alternators and other parts I need to be safe? Part of being a commercial pilot is knowing your aircraft well enough that you can plan to get the optimum usage out of it in a day.  Legally I need to plan the flight such that I can arrive at my destination with thirty minutes reserve fuel. After I take off that rule is no longer in effect. it would not be illegal for me to land with two minutes of fuel left in the tanks. If I ever did, it would suggest that I had been stupid, or had had a very serious unforeseen situation. If I were to run out of fuel I would probably be charged with something.Something with "endangering" and or "failure" in it, I suppose.

It definitely would have been smart to check NOTAMs. I don't remember now whether I tried to call an FSS or just didn't think of it, or had looked them up hours ago, before the first flight of the day. As we hold clear of the airport for the fire fighting aircraft, we have a great view of the orange fire suppressant streaming out of the bomber onto the blaze.  White smoke, green trees, yellow water bomber, orange fire suppressant, red fuel gauge.

After the bomber run, and a detour I come in to land. It's hot. The blast of heat from the pavement makes the airplane bobble in the flare. I finesse with power. It's like flying a C172 again.

There is about twenty minutes left in my lowest tank. So less than I aim for, but that's sort of what reserve fuel is for.  If I never ever used it, it wouldn't be worth hauling around. I think I've only gone  this far into my reserve three times in my career. Once for strong winds, this time for a forest fire, and the first time for strong headwinds and a forest fire diversion.

I taxi clear of the runway and onto the FBO apron. The guy from the normally very quick Esso FBO walks up and tells me the fuel truck is broken. I have a moment of "oh---FIRETRUCK!" When you don't check NOTAMs, you can get it from both sides. And then he says, "I'll call the Shell for you." Oh right. This airport has more than one FBO. That's one of the reasons we use it.

We fuel, start with the engines facing the wrong way for the wind, but it's not strong, and then take off with a quartering tailwind. Long runway, no obstacles ahead, and it's operationally much more efficient.

1 comment:

JetAviator7 said...

I remember flying into LaGuardia in an old Hawker jet only to find the fuel truck broken and no fuel in sight. Had to make a quick hop to Newark for fuel and then back to LaGuardia to wait for our passengers.

Now that I am retired from corporate flying I spend my time talking to fellow pilots who I am helping select a pair of Randolph Aviator sunglasses for their cockpit.

Sometimes I DO miss the flying!