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Saving fuel means saving moneySaving fuel means saving money

One of the easiest and least expensive ways to increase margins is through fuel savings. Increasing fuel efficiency may entail a few minor modifications, but with the price of fuel steadily escalating, it could easily be worth the investment. Certain modifications that increase the safety and stability of your aircraft also may qualify you for discounts with your insurance carrier, making your initial investment really pay off in the long run.

Check with a good mechanic to see if these relatively inexpensive and easy-to-install aerodynamic enhancements can be made to your fleet.

Aileron gap seal kit—Well known for increasing fuel efficiency, aileron gap seal kits can be a performance and safety enhancement for student pilots. NASA reports have proven that closing the gaps between the wing and aileron can decrease drag and increase lift. They do this by reducing the amount of air leaking from the high-pressure underside of the wing to the low-pressure top side of the wing. The result is the following:

  • Faster cruise, slower stall—Depending on the exact model and condition of your aircraft, you can expect an increase in top speed of about 2 percent and a decrease in stall speed of about 2 percent.
  • Higher rate of climb—Depending on the exact model and condition of your aircraft, you can expect an increase in the rate of climb of about 2 percent.
  • Greater range—The wing becomes more efficient, so range increases by about 1.5 to 2 percent.
  • Higher roll rate—According to most kit manufacturers, the roll rate of the aircraft will be almost 100 percent higher, in essence almost doubling the aileron authority. This is very significant in crosswind landings when one is flying near the stall speed and relying on aileron authority to make a safe landing.
  • Increased safety—By requiring less distance to take off and clear a 50-foot obstacle there is an additional margin of safety for difficult runways. One kit manufacturer claims gap seals make the aircraft more stall-spin resistant.

 

Flap gap seal kit—Just like the aileron gap seals, flap gap seals eliminate a high-drag area by reducing the amount of air leaking from the high-pressure underside of the wing to the low-pressure top side of the wing. The benefits of flap gap seals are also very similar to aileron gap seals, including a faster cruise speed, slower stall speed, better rate of climb, greater range, and increased safety.

If you combine the flap gap seal kit with the aileron gap seal kit there will be even greater performance increases. With both kits installed you can expect an increase in top speed of about 2 percent to 4 percent, a decrease in stall speed of about 4 percent, an increase in rate of climb of about 2 percent to 4 percent, and an increase in range of about 4 percent. Naturally these combined benefits will further enhance your fuel economy and safety. Expect to pay around $500 per kit.

Of course, the most immediate and cheapest way to save fuel is through educating your instructors. Making sure that instructors are practicing and teaching proper leaning techniques will save you fuel, and engine wear and tear. With fuel in some places at upwards of $8 a gallon, that’s no small thing.

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