Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Save On Avgas


American avgas is becoming almost as expensive as European petrol. Here’s how to use less of it.


6 Fly Symmetrically
We were all taught in flight school to keep the airplane's fuel load in balance, but how easily we forget. Some of the more exotic turbine equipment (the Socata TBM 850, for example,) automatically switch tanks every half hour. Other manufacturers provide a timer to annunciate when it's time to switch (the Piper Mirage). Allowing one wing to become too heavy means you must hold opposite rudder or aileron to keep the other wing level, introducing additional drag—not a very efficient way to fly.

7 Fly Lighter
The late Roy LoPresti used to suggest that speed of the midrange production singles increases roughly 1% for every 100 pounds you off-load. There's not much you can do about basic aircraft empty weight, and it may not be possible to find 100 nonessential pounds in your airplane, but anything you can leave behind will make the airplane more efficient. Clean out the baggage compartment, store all those extra headsets, pillows, blankets and charts for the opposite coast in your hangar or locker, and you may discover your airplane is more enthusiastic than you knew. (The automotive industry has discovered that weight reduction is so important to improve mpg that some car makers are actually excluding the spare tire as standard equipment.)

8 Proper Tune
(How about "Fly Me to the Moon?") It should go without saying that you stand little chance of maximizing mpg if the engine isn't running at peak efficiency. This doesn't mean you need to visit the shop before every flight, but make certain the mags are properly timed and the plugs are cleaned and gapped at least twice a year. A balanced prop also will contribute smoothness and a marginal amount of speed.

9 Plan Descents
Many pilots who fly with speed brakes (this pilot included) use them more than they should. If you fly a clean airplane that builds speed quickly in a descent, aerodynamic braking can be a convenient way to keep velocity in check. Convenient doesn't equate to efficient, however.
Cleanliness is next to godliness. you're guaranteed to at least think it's faster, even if it isn't.
By definition, speed brakes help reduce excess speed, a fairly counterproductive concept since the whole idea of flying is to travel faster than the Porsche on the Interstate below. Instead, plan ahead, and don't give away expensive speed.

10 Roll Freely
Keep tires properly inflated to minimize rolling friction. Some pilots even make it a point to maintain the tires at five pounds over the recommended level to allow for leakage during those intervals between flights.

The trick isn't to allow tires to bleed down to a level where the bulge on the bottom inhibits taxi and demands extra power. Conversely, don't inflate the rubber so much that tires become more susceptible to blowouts on rough asphalt.

Times are tough. Aircraft operating costs are higher than they've been in years. For those of us who love flying and wouldn't think of giving it up because of fuel costs, a little foresight and more meticulous habits can help reduce the pain.



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