The Go/No-Go Decision
It’s better to be safe than sorry
Most pilots who ferry piston singles and twins across the Pacific wouldn’t consider making the trip from California to Hawaii with less than a two-hour reserve, and three hours is preferable. The problem on the Commander was I had no way of gauging how much fuel I was burning or how much I had remaining. In other words, I could fly out 1,000 nm from land and not have any idea if I had enough fuel to complete the flight.
The only answer was to install a fuel totalizer to give me a proper measure of fuel burned and fuel remaining. Totalizers are generally accurate to a few tenths of a gallon, and with a Shadin on the panel, I would know exactly how much I had burned and how long I could continue to fly at the current consumption or if I needed to consider throttling back to a more efficient power setting.
The rest of the story is anticlimactic. The Australian owner was predictably unhappy with the delay, but reasonable about the problem and agreed to have a totalizer installed. I’m currently waiting for the work to be completed as this is written. Once the totalizer is installed, I’ll be launching once more for trip number 184 across a big pond.
Bill Cox is entering his third decade as a senior contributor to Plane & Pilot® and provides consulting for media, entertainment and aviation concerns worldwide.