Saturday, May 05, 2007

Today I had an experience in aviation that I had never had before.

We arrive at the FBO today to get our plane ready to return home to Toronto. I go to the front desk and ask the guy to pull the plane out front, and for a gpu.

"Yes sir, your plane is already pulled out front and fuelled, and I'll get a gpu for you" says the guy.

"We haven't ordered fuel yet, but I'll let you know how much we need" Says I.

He gives me a funny look and shows me a piece of paper.

"But I have a fuel slip for 541 gallons here, for the Canadian plane"

I start to sweat a little, even in the air-conditioned building.

"With what we had remaining in the tanks, that would give us full fuel, and make us very overweight for this flight. I say again, we have not ordered fuel"

Another line guy, a young fellow with wide-set eyes, comes up and interjects himself into the conversation.

"Yeah you did. I got a call at 6am this morning from the guy in the Canadian plane, asking for a pullout at 1pm and for a top-off of fuel"

"I was asleep at 6am, and we aren't departing until 3"

Just then, another guy walks in from the ramp.

"Hey, I'm in the Piper Saratoga, the Canadian one. I ordered fuel this morning and you guys didn't do it"

There is a long pause as we soak in what just happened. At least our fuel slip indicates that the wide-set-eye guy fueled us with jet fuel and not avgas.

The guy behind the counter looks at the wide-set-eye line guy, and shakes his head.

"You screwed up. You screwed up bad."

He then turns to me and looks at the ground.

"We have no way to de-fuel you"


Kitsch and I run to the airplane and Kitsch pulls the engine covers off while I go up front. Our passengers are due in 45 minutes.

I pull out the performance charts and start to calculate. It's a hot day, with a light wind. The runway is just over 4,000 feet long, with a tall forest at each end. With our passenger load and baggage, I need to sit here and burn nearly a half-tonne of fuel before we can even think about departing.

I light the engines up and taxi to an area far from the main ramp, where I set the brakes and advance the throttles until the fuel flows indicate a burn of 4,000lbs per hour. With the hot day and short runway, we can't even take off at our normal max gross weight; we need to be light enough so the plane can clear the trees even if an engine fails right as we lift off.

A quick aside: If we departed with a full load of fuel and a full passenger and baggage load, we would be maybe a thousand pounds over our max allowable gross weight. Now even in a little baby jet like the Citation 550, the plane has enough power when both engines are working that we could probably get airborne, and most likely climb out and continue our trip. But if we blow an engine on the take-off roll, or if we blow an engine right after we get airborne, one engine will not be able to keep us going and we would either run off the runway, or wind up descending into the forest at a hundred miles an hour. I look at the forest - the trees are large, sturdy, and they appear to be well-rooted in the ground.

I get a text message from Kitsch, who has stayed behind at the FBO to greet the passengers.

"The pax are here" - 30 minutes early.

I ponder this, and then realize that all I can do is relax, wait, and listen as the engines turn $800 US worth of fuel into noise.

15 minutes later, I taxi back to the FBO, and we load up. The FBO manager can't apologize enough; he eats the cost of the fuel we had to burn, and gives us the rest of the fuel at the same rate we pay in Toronto, which is about a buck-fifty per gallon cheaper than their normal rate. I notice that the wide-set-eye line guy is no longer around.

The pax are understanding, and laugh it off as Kitsch loads their bags and I finish up paying for our gas.

It's Kitsch's flying leg. We load up, fire up, and head toward the runway. Kitsch taxis to the very end of the runway and turns around. He sets the brakes and advances the throttles. I set them to our calculated take-off thrust setting, and he releases the brakes. The plane leaps forward, and soon we are airborne, climbing well above the trees at the departure end of the runway. Better safe than sorry, but damn, what a waste.

Upcoming: The next 5 days are a different sort of aviation adventure for me; I'm going to be attending a Company Check Pilot course, which is theoretically going to give me the authority to conduct PPC rides and IFR renewals on our jets. Stay tuned...


Pedro said...

LOL! What a waste :O

Garrett said...

Wow. Sucks to be that guy.

Out of curiosity, is there any problem with cooling (oil temps perhaps) with long static runups like that?

Sulako said...

Nope, the temps are just fine. I ran the engines at around 85% N1, which is still well below their max power, and they were relatively cool at around 600 degrees.

In the MU-2, temps were a big concern, but in the 550 it's never been a problem.

Splendor said...

I don't think I'll forget this one anytime soon!

This is a lesson for the world, always state registration when talking about your airplane..


Smurfjet said...

Could you have departed with an empty a/c and 2 pilots, or was it still overweight?