Answers for Pilots: Stretching your fuel dollar

August 1, 2008

Flight planning with a fuel-economy focus, and implementing efficient ground, departure, en route, and arrival procedures will result in immediate fuel savings. Other contributing factors to fuel efficiency that have a long-term, continuing impact on fuel burn, include maintenance and care of the airframe, engine, and prop, as well as aircraft modifications that reduce drag and improve aerodynamics.

When planning a flight, pick the altitude with the best tailwind (or the least headwind). Conserve fuel by setting radios, reviewing airport diagrams, and listening to weather before starting the engine. Plan to depart when traffic is light to avoid delays. And when your destination is a large airport, plan to minimize taxi time by landing as near to the FBO as possible.

Save fuel en route by leaning and throttling back for economy cruise and cruise descent. Leaning is recommended by most engine manufacturers when operating at or below 75-percent power. Reducing power to a best-economy setting will result in improved mileage per gallon. It takes a few more minutes to reach your destination at 65-percent power than at 75-percent, but the fuel savings add up. Planning a gradual cruise descent will put you in the airport environment at pattern altitude.

Check your landing gear, cowling, rigging, and trim for items that may be causing drag. For instance, misaligned rudder trim can cause you to fly in a slight, but constant slip—increasing drag and reducing speed. Fresh oil, clean spark plugs, well-timed magnetos, a spotless engine, and a well-dressed prop, all contribute to improved fuel efficiency.

Inexpensive drag-reducing enhancements, such as gap seals for flaps and ailerons, landing light covers, and wheel pants all help improve aerodynamics; and higher priced STC’ed improvements, such as a tuned exhaust system, or a constant-speed prop, provide continuing fuel savings.

If you have questions, or other ideas to help beat the price of avgas, give us a call at 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672).

Membership Q&A

Answers to frequently asked questions about your AOPA membership

Q: I’m on automatic annual renewal, but I’ve got a new credit card. Do I e-mail the new card information to you?

A: Because e-mail is not a secure way to communicate private information, we strongly encourage all of our members to call us with the updated information or to use our secure Web site. From our home page, click on the Membership Services tab and then on the Manage My Membership link in the left column. Log-in using your member number or username and password—for your security—and then scroll down the page a bit to Member Information. You’ll see a link on the right side of the page to update your automatic annual renewal credit card information.

Q: Other than at the annual AOPA Expo and the Fly-In, does AOPA provide any opportunities for members to chat about aviation-related ideas, experiences or questions?

A: On our Web site you can discuss aviation topics any day, anytime in our members-only AOPA forums. With close to 10,000 pilots posting more than half a million comments so far, you’ll find plenty of aviation-related information, insight, and opinions. Whether you jump into the conversations or simply read the posts of other pilots, the AOPA Forums will keep you connected to the pilot community all year round. AOPA members can register for free to post in the AOPA forums.

Q: I’m receiving more renewal notices than I need. Can I get just one renewal notice sent to me each year?

A: Call Member Services or send us an e-mail and we’ll update your mail preferences on your membership record. You’ll receive one notice just prior to your renewal month and won’t receive any more if you respond promptly to that one. Or join the more than 175,000 members who take advantage of our easy automatic annual renewal plan. We’ll bill your credit card on the first day of your renewal month and you’ll receive a $4 discount when you enroll if you haven’t previously been enrolled in the program. And if you use an AOPA Mastercard or Visa, we’ll give you a $2 discount every year that you continue to participate in the program.

Member Services contact information:

Phone: 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672), 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern time) Monday through Friday.

After hours: Renew your membership, reset your Web password, or enroll in Automatic Annual Renewal using our self-service touch-tone phone option.

E-mail: [email protected]

Web: Update your personal information, renew your membership and much more by clicking on Manage My Membership on the Membership Services page.

Kathy Dondzila

Kathy Dondzila | Manager, Technical Communications, Pilot Information Center

Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.