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Regulatory requirements and guidance for in-flight fuel management

Issue number: AO-2014-190-SI-11
Who it affects: All operators and flight crew, particularly those who conduct flights to remote or isolated aerodromes
Issue owner: Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Operation affected: Aviation: Air transport
Background: Investigation Report AO-2009-072
Date: 23 November 2017

Safety issue description

The available regulatory guidance on in-flight fuel management and on seeking and applying en route weather updates was too general and increased the risk of inconsistent in-flight fuel management and decisions to divert.

Proactive Action

Action organisation: Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Action number: AO-2014-190-NSA-036
Date: 23 November 2017
Action status: Closed

As outlined in the safety action for AO-2014-190-SI-10, since 2009 CASA has conducted or initiated a number of actions to improve requirements and guidance for fuel planning and fuel management. These activities also addressed in-flight fuel management aspects.

In August 2012, the following text was added to AIP ENR 1.1 (based on requirements in ICAO Annex 6, see Additional safety action regarding fuel planning and management):

8.10.4 In-Flight Fuel Management The pilot in command shall continually ensure that the amount of usable fuel remaining on board is not less than the fuel required to proceed to an aerodrome where a safe landing can be made with the planned fixed fuel reserve remaining upon landing. The pilot in command shall request delay information from ATC when unanticipated circumstances may result in landing at the destination aerodrome with less than the fixed fuel reserve plus any fuel required to proceed to an alternate aerodrome or the fuel required to operate to an isolated aerodrome.

In August 2012, CASA published a new version of CAAP 215-1(1) – Guide to preparation of operations manuals. Annex B of the CAAP provided guidance on information to include in an operations manual regarding the calculation of a critical point (CP) and a point of no return (PNR). However, the guidance was applicable to situations where the destination aerodrome and alternate aerodrome were on the same track as the flight path from the departure aerodrome to the destination aerodrome.

In December 2014, CASA amended the fuel planning requirements in CAO 82.0 for operations to remote islands so that these requirements applied to RPT operations and aerial work operations involving air ambulance functions (regardless of whether a patient was carried) in addition to passenger-carrying charter flights (see Safety action AO-2014-190-NSA-035). In addition, the requirements included:

…during the flight, the pilot in command carries out in-flight fuel management to ensure that the aeroplane is always carrying sufficient fuel to enable it to reach its destination aerodrome as planned, or its nominated alternate aerodrome if necessary, with the required minimum fuel reserves intact.

In January 2016, CASA issued Consultation Draft (CD) 1508OS – Fuel and oil quantity requirements. The CD included proposed amendments to CAR 234 and CAAP 234. The proposed instrument included specific requirements for in-flight fuel management. More specifically, section 5 included:

In-flight fuel quantity checks

(2) The pilot in command must ensure that fuel quantity checks are carried out in-flight at regular intervals and the usable fuel remaining is evaluated to:

(a) compare planned fuel consumption with actual fuel consumption; and

(b) determine that the usable fuel remaining is sufficient to complete the planned flight in accordance with subsection 4 (3) (if applicable) and subsection 4 (4); and

(c) determine the expected usable fuel remaining on arrival at the destination aerodrome.

(3) The relevant fuel quantity data evaluated in accordance with subsection 5 (2) must be recorded after each fuel quantity check.

Section 6 of the instrument included specific procedures to be used in the event a fuel quantity check identified the fuel quantity was below the required level.

The proposed version of CAAP 234-1(2) associated with the instrument included additional guidance on in-flight fuel quantity checks and in-flight fuel management. This proposed guidance included:

6.4.1 After a flight has commenced, in-flight fuel management is the practical means by which the pilot-in-command ensures that fuel is used in the manner intended during pre-flight planning, or in-flight re-planning.

6.4.2 In-fight fuel management does not replace pre-flight planning or in-flight re-planning activities, rather it acts to ensure continual validation of planning assumptions that influence fuel usage and required fuel reserves. Such validation serves as a trigger for re-analysis and adjustment activities that ultimately ensure that each flight is safely completed with the planned fixed fuel reserve on board at an aerodrome where a safe landing can be made.

6.4.3 The pilot-in-command should ensure that a critical point of last diversion to the final en-route alternate is identified during the pre-flight planning stage. This is particularly important when operating to a remote island. During the course of the flight, the critical point should be assessed and, if necessary, revised based upon actual fuel consumption and in-flight conditions.

6.4.4 The revised critical point then becomes the last point by which the pilot-in-command should obtain and assess updated destination information (i.e. meteorological conditions, traffic and other operational conditions at the destination aerodrome) in order to validate the destination planning assumptions and allow timely diversion to occur if necessary (i.e. the revised critical point is the final opportunity to assess options for preserving the required fuel reserves should the destination aerodrome no longer be available).

In August 2017 (after receiving the draft ATSB report for the reopened investigation), CASA advised the ATSB:

Since the accident, ICAO published in 2015 a comprehensive guidance document in relation to in-flight fuel management - Doc 9976 Flight Planning and Fuel Management Manual.

CASA intends to update CAAP 234-1 (1) to incorporate similar concepts to those outlined in the ICAO Manual but on a more limited scale and scope as part of Project OS 09/13 (Fuel and Oil Quantity Requirements).

ATSB response:

The ATSB acknowledges CASA has undertaken work since 2009 to revise and improve requirements and guidance for in-flight fuel management. However, the ATSB is concerned that, as yet, this work has not resulted in many actual changes to the requirements and guidance. Accordingly, the ATSB issues the following recommendation.


Action organisation: Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Action number: AO-2014-190-SR-043
Date: 23 November 2017
Action status: Released

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority continue its work to address the limitations associated with the requirements and guidance for in-flight fuel management.

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Last update 23 November 2017