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Old 10-24-2008, 08:27 AM   #1  
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Joined APC: Jul 2006
Position: CFI
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Default Low Fuel

What would you do?

I was with a Commercial student conducting a night cross-country flight. When we got to our destination, the fuel station was out of fuel (no NOTAM was listed for this) and we only had 75 minutes of fuel left.

There were 4 airports within a 30 minute flight. All airports were listed in the AF/D as airports with fuel service. My student selected the closest airport to us, 10 minuets away. We landed at airport A and there was no fuel station (the AF/D was wrong). We then had a choice between airports B, a small rural airport in uncontrolled airspace, or C an airport in class D (day) / E (night), close to a city. My student selected airport C.

We flew another ten minutes and landed only to find that there was no fuel station, only fuel trucks. It was 10:30 on a weeknight and so we opened the AF/D and tried to call the FBO, airport manager, and the after hours fuel service. All the numbers listed in the AF/D were out of service.

Airport D was located another 15-20 minutes away. By this time we had exactly enough fuel to meet VFR night minimums. There was a fire station up the road that we walked to. The firefighter who helped us also had the same disconnected phone numbers to contact. He had to call the fire dispatch to reach the owner of the fuel trucks, to get her out of bed, to call an employee and get her out of bed, to drive to the airport, and operate the fuel truck to fill up our plane.

At about midnight, we were charged with the high cost of fuel, and an additional $100 for the after hours service.

Is this just an expensive lesson learned, or is there a way to get the $100 back? It seems unfair that the FBO benefits from erroneous information provided by the Department of Transportation.
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Old 10-24-2008, 08:31 AM   #2  
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I think your stuck with the bill. Remember just because the AFD says services are available 24hr, doesn't mean a call out fee won't be associated with it. It's always better to check with an FBO first, before you take off, and always look for self serve on late night training flight!
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Old 10-24-2008, 09:04 AM   #3  
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I think this is an expensive lesson for you. If you aren't familiar with an airport, ALWAYS call ahead, even a day or so in advance never hurts. Get their hours of ops etc... Another quick and easy source is AirNav It'll get you FBO's, phone numbers, fuel prices, and user comments.

When I flew 135 freight, you never knew where you were going, or who you'd need to be there, so I always took an extra minute or two to find a number and call. Never assume!!!
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Old 10-24-2008, 09:13 AM   #4  
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The AFD doesn't guarantee the price of the fueling service...
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Old 10-24-2008, 09:19 AM   #5  
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Your story reminds me of a (night) cross country I did with one of my students. He had done a good bit of research and had selected a landing airport (we shot approaches at several area fields that night) based on the low price of fuel there.

It was an unattended self serve pump, with no indicated price, just swipe your card and hope for the best. The fuel ended up costing 2x what he would have paid had he gone to the 'full service' primary airport.

Moral of the story: preflight planning isn't just fuel burn & time on target calculations. If its a place you're not familiar with, get some reliable intel from someone who has recently been there. Or at least call the FBO & verify that your assumptions are valid.
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Old 10-24-2008, 09:23 AM   #6  
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Lesson learned. ALWAYS call to verify information from AF/D,, etc. It is a basic PIC requirement to have all information necessary for safe operation of the flight.
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Old 10-24-2008, 11:45 AM   #7  
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You're complaining about $100 when this is ALL your fault? Seriously? Make a phone call prior to leaving any airport.

...AND you better have tipped the guy you drug out to the airport in the middle of the night!
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Old 10-24-2008, 02:18 PM   #8  
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Default Lesson Learned

Frustrating as it was, this was a very valuable lesson learned for both me and the student. The service charge is nothing compared to what could have happened.

I appreciate feedback from those of you who have more experience. It is one of the ways to becoming a better pilot.

So back to one of the posts regarding the difference between a 200 hr pilot vs. 5000 hr pilot...
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Old 10-24-2008, 02:39 PM   #9  
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Joined APC: May 2006
Position: ATP, CFI etc.
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Don't beat yourself up too bad, this could have happened to any of us at some point or other.

I recall making a fuel stop at Gatlinburg Tennessee's FBO one time on a cross country over the Smoky Mountains late in the afternoon. Sure enough the darn thing closed 5 minutes before I got there and I intended to keep going after fueling up. Luckily I was able to get fuel at a Knoxville FBO not far away without reaching fuel mins but it was looking like motel and cheese crackers there for a minute since they closed 10 minutes after I got fuel. Airnav has customer reports attached to all the FBO's it lists, and most of them are accurate enough to be of value. Occasionally an FBO will claim to have services or times that it does not actually have, even to the point of blatant lying sometimes, so be aware of the value of the customer comments.
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Old 10-24-2008, 09:48 PM   #10  
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could have just siphoned from some planes on the ramp......


just joking

seriously that is a funny story, must have been a long xc

I'm a little lazy sometimes, so I usually try to get them to plot their XCs around having enough fuel for the round-robin.... since most GA aircraft have the capability for 5 hours of fuel on board...

unless of course you are talking about flying through a cold front or something.
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