Limiting Risk

When you take shortcuts or are in a hurry, flying can be dangerous, but here’s one risk you can limit.

When you read the book FlyGirl, you might have thought, “How stupid!” But guess what: many pilots – most of them are licensed pilots – ran their planes out of gas and crashed. How do you explain that? Please forgive FlyGirl Jill. She goes a little ga-ga when she’s around Robbie. It’s easy to forget gas when a hottie is walking by. And she was in a rush. Not to mention she wasn’t trained properly. Maybe she deserves what she got, but I don’t think she’ll do that again.

In 2004, a pilot in Las Vegas ran his Cessna 210 out of fuel and messed up his plane coming down in a dirt field just 6 miles from the airport. advises that 1,700 accidents have resulted from poor fuel management in the past decade. That’s 1,700 accidents that didn’t have to happen.

In 2004 alone, 79 accidents occurred from fuel exhaustion, 39 from fuel starvation and 18 from fuel contamination.

AOPA says, “There were almost 20% more fuel-management accidents in 2010 than in 2008, and the proportion of fatal accidents blamed on fuel mismanagement increased by more than 40%…”

This is totally preventable. Totally within your hands.  Don’t run out of gas!

The minimum required reserve in your fuel tanks is a half hour. I think the minimum should be 1 ½ hours. I’ve never gone below that and I’ve flown regularly across the Southwest for years. You too can make this your minimum. Why not take out one element of risk wherever you can? If your minimum is 1 ½ hours, then if something comes up, you have more options and time to deal with it.

Whenever you can eliminate a risk, please take the time to do so. I had a friend who was merely taxiing his new plane to the end of the flightline but neglected to wash the windshield first. Because he didn’t take 2 minutes to clean up his view, he totaled his plane, running it off the end of the taxiway and into a ditch. No wonder our insurance is so high. $85,000 later he was in a new plane, but I can’t say I forgive that kind of laziness. As a pilot, you have to be diligent. You have to go the extra mile. You have to fuss over the little things, such as a clean window. You have to take your time and do it right. There’s too much at risk.

Get a good flight instructor. Read everything you can about flying. Join and hangar fly to learn from experienced pilots whenever you get the chance. It’s not just about what you do in the air. As Jill knows, it’s what you do before the flight that can make all the difference in the world.

You can read accident reports and ASF safety advisories at It’s worth joining AOPA because they work to save GA airports and help pilots.

And please, please forgive FlyGirl Jill.

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