Friday, April 3, 2009

Saving fuel

The last turn went fine. The weather today is so much nicer. I really wished I could have flown a 172 instead of CRJ today. Today was a perfect VFR flying day. I really miss seeing the world down low.

The Captain took the leg out of base today. I was once told that the only fuel that is "extra" on board is whatever fuel is left after the plane is parked at the gate. The Captain I was flying with likes to save fuel. He will climb a little higher, descend later and delay adding drag (flaps and gear) until required.

It's a fun game to play. Some guys I fly with don't care too much about saving fuel. Captains at my airline get a "fuel score" which rates the amount used on their flights versus the average. First Officers get no such score. I still play along. The best I have done to date was save a little over 1000 pounds on a flight. This was done by having a greater than expected tailwind, no traffic enroute and little traffic at the destination.

On most flights I make a "game" out of saving fuel. Many arrivals into busy airports have altitude and airspeed restrictions. For example the Pittsburgh airport Wiske3 arrival  ( advises turbojet aircraft to expect to cross WISKE at 10,000 feet and 250 knots when the airport is on an east flow. Using the FMS and VNAV function I will try to delay the descent from altitude until I can descend at 3500-4000 feet per minute so I can do a flight idle descent the entire way down. I plan on leveling off at 10,000 feet a few (3-5) miles ahead of WISKE to give the plane time to smoothly slow down to 250 knots. When the airport is on an east flow and the weather is good I can expect to be at 10,000 feet for just a short while until descending again. All the fuel saving plans depend on what ATC is doing/predicting. Many times we are forced to descend early and all fuel saving plans get a wrinkle.

I took the leg back. I hand flew it up to 16,000 feet or so before turning on the autoplot. The pressure in the area was near standard at 29.88. The pressure at our departure airport this morning was a very low 29.17!

I made another visual approach (backed up with the ILS). The most exciting part of any flight for me is the few seconds just before landing. When I hear the words "500" barked out by the airplane I get this excitedly nervous feeling. The same feeling I get when reaching the top of a rollercoaster hill. I always love what follows.

I was on speed at 500 feet and right on glide-slope. The winds were calm again. As I heard "100" through my headset I gripped the yoke a little firmer and kept the nose pointed down. When I heard "50" I started to pull the power out slowly and arrest the descent. My eyes were staring down the runway as I heard "40", "30", "20". I flare a little more after the 20 foot call. "Ten"...I know the earth is just under the main gear. By now the thrust levers are at idle and I am slowly releasing back pressure. Contact.

With the thrust levers idled I pull up on the thrust reversers. The plane begins to slow from 130 knots. Around 80 knots I begin using the brakes and reducing the thrust levers to idle. Most Captains take over steering below 60 knots...this Captain is no different.

The tower came over the radio advising us to contact ground. I answer back and begin my after landing flow. Another flight done.

The plane we used today was deiced early this morning. I noticed deicing fluid during my initial walk around. Deicing fluid seeps into all parts of the plane. A plane can fly across the country at 500 MPH and still have deicing fluid leak out after it parks. Another sign of deicing was the windshield. There were streaks from the deicing fluid. We called to get a cleaning before departing. Each time I see them clean the windshields it reminds me of a scene from Airplane!


Time to relax. I got morning airport standby tomorrow. Another unexpected "surprise".


  1. Excellent play-by-play of your flight. I just love these, because I put myself in your position and try to live that moment. Childish I know, but my dream to fly started when I was a child. I can't say this enough, great blog. Please don't stop.

  2. You tell a heck of a story...

  3. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  4. I was wondering if the same "fuel score" system is used at other airlines. Is the "fuel score" computed from actual FOB after fueling is complete or dispatched fuel? That is interesting to know that crews get graded for fuel consumption. What happens to the crews that consistently burn more than average?

    That is a great play by play on your final approach. The voice call outs of the altitudes that start at 500...will the call outs be inaccurate if you have the wrong altimeter setting?

    Thankyou for responding to my previous question.


  5. The fuel score is derived from the difference between the fuel amount used for weight and balance at the start of a flight and how much fuel is on board when we pull into the gate and open the passenger door. All the math is done via onboard computer. It's not a perfect system as we can change how much fuel is reported before we depart.

    As far as the altitude call outs, they come from the radar altimeter, thus is independent from the altimeter on my PFD.


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