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Save money, go green with fuel-saving tipsSave money, go green with fuel-saving tips

In a recent survey of pilots, nearly 82 percent of people said that fuel prices, and not customer service or amenities, usually dictate which FBO they will frequent. In fact, an increasing number of charter operators and aviation colleges have implemented mandatory waypoint fuel stops for cross-country flights based on negotiated fuel price discounts. Some operators and flying clubs have reported that students and renters are either being offered a discount for using a negotiated discount fueler, or charged a surcharge if they don’t.�

Dry versus wet rates is also currently being debated heavily again. The dry rate gives the pilot a degree of control over the hourly cost not available with a wet rate. Some flight schools have chosen not to hire CFIs as employees, instead using them as independent contractors who must pay for the fuel used during their lessons; this offers some incentive for the CFI to instruct students on the management of the fuel system for economy, and to shop around for better fuel prices.
In order to protect your own bottom line, start networking with neighboring airport FBOs, negotiating discount rates. If you are dissatisfied with your local airport’s fuel prices or service, it may be worth routing your CFIs to those fields where fuel rates are cheaper to perform their pattern work and cross-country flights. Often, once your local fuel provider starts feeling the sting of losing your business, the provider opts to match or beat the price you’ve negotiated elsewhere. The bottom line … if you have the green, it should speak loudly in this economy.

Another way to save fuel is in concert with your flight instructors. Just like hazmat plans and safety plans, taking a strong approach to enacting and implementing mandatory “green” plans and training sessions will enable you to establish better fuel efficiency to incorporate into your ops manual. It is not only the responsibility of a CFI to teach his or her students how to operate an aircraft safely, but efficiently as well. Here are specific tried-and-true methods that can and will save your school money, reduce carbon emissions, and ease undue wear and tear on your aircraft.

  • Engine start—Upon startup, engines can be damaged due to a lack of sufficient lubrication, so it is imperative that rpm be kept to a minimum to provide for sufficient oil pressure and temperature.
  • Taxi—Lean aggressively. Spark plugs have a tendency to load up on carbon deposits on the ground, which in turn leads to longer run-ups due to the necessity of clearing the engine.
  • Run-up—Since engine efficiency is checked at this point, pay close attention to excessive magneto drop and engine roughness. This is especially important if an engine is being operated at high altitudes and/or high ambient temperatures.
  • Takeoff—At high density altitudes, proper leaning and static run-up procedures will ensure maximum rpm output; this will realize maximum efficiency and performance from the engine.
  • Pattern work—Efficient use of pattern exercise means teaching tight, crisp patterns. The downwind segment of the pattern can be flown at reduced power settings. This saves fuel and the engine from a sudden large decrease in power when it’s time to descend.
  • Air work—Students need to be aware of proper leaning techniques when operating above the designated minimum altitude for leaning. Stress to your instructors the role the mixture control plays in this segment of flight.

It’s important to note that while aggressive leaning is a major component in saving fuel, if done improperly, leaning an engine will increase internal temperatures, which can ultimately harm the engine through detonation or just plain overheating. If you’re offering primary instruction in a typical training airplane, it’s never a good idea to fly lean of peak, and some serious consideration needs to be given to doing so with a high-performance rental aircraft. Although flying lean of peak will save money, if done improperly, it can seriously harm the engine. Always remember that efficiency needs to be tempered carefully as to not impair safety at any time.

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