Re-Fueling At Airports

Thu Jul 20, 2000 4:56 pm

I'm new to this board, but I have a question. Can someone tell me why airplanes have to refuel at every airport they go to? Wouldn't it make more sense for an airline to fuel the airplane all the way up at the first airport it goes to each day, then use that fuel for the rest of the airplane's flights? Thanks for the helpful answers.

RE: Re-Fueling At Airports

Thu Jul 20, 2000 5:02 pm

Many airlines do this anyway.
Purdue Arrow
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RE: Re-Fueling At Airports

Thu Jul 20, 2000 5:07 pm

Two reasons...

1) Airplanes only hold so much fuel, and they burn a lot of it. Airliners would generally be unable to complete a day's schedule without refueling, even if they started with full tanks. Many flights are already stretching the limits of the aircraft's range, so a full day of flying would be impossible.

2) Lighter airplanes burn less fuel, and are therefore less expensive to operate. For this reason, airlines generally load the amount of fuel that is legally required for a flight, rather than topping off the tanks. When, for example, an American 777 flies from DFW-ORD, it is almost guaranteed that it does not have 14 hours of fuel on it.
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RE: Re-Fueling At Airports

Thu Jul 20, 2000 8:45 pm

woohoo!! a question i *know* i can answer. The reason is the fact that let's say....on a 737, you can usually hold 9500lbs per wing, and 10000lbs in the center (this is USair's regs, others differ)

now on a normal trip from, oh, florida, let's say they topped off there. When the arrive in let's say...IAD, they would usually have only 8000lbs TOTAL. In short, each fill up is usually only good for a flight, maybe 2. ANA flies out topped off every day, and i'm sure uses almost all of that fuel.

hope this helps

RE: Re-Fueling At Airports

Thu Jul 20, 2000 10:55 pm

How about this. There are things called weight restrictions too. An aircraft may be booked with people, bags, freight and mail, and that is why fuel consideration comes in last. I've fueled flights from BWI-ORD that somedays will take 20k pounds because of weight restrictions and other days they will take 35k pounds. Also you have to take into consideration the weather, and runway lengths. If you top off the A/C when it needs fuel it also may be to heavy to land when it get to the destination airport .
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RE: Re-Fueling At Airports

Thu Jul 20, 2000 11:04 pm

It is very easy. It is much more expensive to fly useless fuel arround the world than to re-fuel at every airport. Every kilogramm (or pound) you have more on an aircraft burns more fuel and costs more. Airlines only take more fuel as necessary if they fly to an airport where the fuel would be much more expensiv, anything else is uneconomical. If they fuel an aircraft for a short haul flight with the necessary fuel for a long haul flight it would cost the airline a lot more.
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RE: Re-Fueling At Airports

Fri Jul 21, 2000 12:17 am

hello people -
when i was a fueler at mke, very often twa would not take any fuel. one reason was that they don't need a whole lot of fuel on their md-80's to get back to st. louis. another was that st. louis gave them a break on fuel taxes so they would usually take as much fuel there as possible in order to avoid having to pay higher fuel prices elsewhere.

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RE: Re-Fueling At Airports

Fri Jul 21, 2000 12:39 am

As some folks have mentioned, there are a variey of reasons, mainly economic and operational, why airliners don't go around routinely flying with full tanks. You'd be surprised how some folks *within* the industry and ATC think that's the case, but I digress...

Various FAA regs address fuel requirements that dispatchers must consider. You need fuel to get from point-A to point-B. You need fuel to get to a viable alternate point-C if the weather at B is (or forecast to be) below a certain value. You need fuel for a :45 minute reserve (that's necer planned for use). You need fuel for any enroute weather deviations around storms, and for any known/probable ATC delays.

Depending upon the operational variables for a specfic flight, the resultant fuel is known as "required" fuel, and we strive to keep that number as low as possible. One, to leave room for payload (pax, bags, etc.) and two, to minimize the fuel consumption it'll take to fly that additional fuel around (about 2-3%).

In some cases, we also carry extra fuel (above required) for cost-differential tankering, or other operational purposes. For example, if the aircraft was going from DFW-XYZ-DFW and the cost of fuel was higher at XYZ, it might make more sense to take enough extra fuel from DFW sufficient to have enough for the return XYZ-DFW flight, without the need for buying of the more expensive fuel at XYZ. We do this all the time, if we cam, payload permitting, and applied system-wide, it can and does save oodles of $$$, especially when fuel prices vary greatly and change so often.

Sometimes, fuel trucks and fuel farms are inop for some reason or another, and we take this kind of extra fuel along, not for economic reasons, but to avoid getting stranded since no fueling is available.

Lots of variables....
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RE: Re-Fueling At Airports

Fri Jul 21, 2000 1:47 am

I read many years ago, that for every 9 galls on board you need another gallon to burn just for carrying the 9 galls. I hope that makes sense, the qty's may be wrong but you should get the point.
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RE: Re-Fueling At Airports

Fri Jul 21, 2000 2:12 am

What about flights to unequiped or underequiped airports? I know that both Sabena and British Airways fly their 747s and A330s fully laden with fuel from LHR and BRU tro say Lagos, Kinshasa, and Kigali because the fuel available a those airports tends to be unreliable and possibly dangerous.

Not all who wander are lost....
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Fri Jul 21, 2000 2:25 am

You're correct... Just another of the variables...

Whatever the reason you tanker additional fuel, it can sometimes bit you in the butt for other reasons. In another airline life, my airline ran a DC-10 from JFK to a carribean airport with extra fuel. When it came time to depart the island, the winds had shifted and now mandated the use of the opposite direction, which, towards terrain, was not a great weight runway. The flight was now too heavy, and couldn't be defueled. They ended up boarding half the pax, flying a short hop to San Juan, dropping the pax off there, and returning for the other half. Upon their 2nd trip into San Juan, everyone got back aboard, and non-stop they went to their intended destination...
ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.