Weight and Balance Terminology – Minimum Fuel

in Aircraft Weight and Balance

There are times when an aircraft will have a weight and balance calculation done, known as an extreme condition check. This is a pencil and paper check in which the aircraft is loaded in as nose heavy or tail heavy a condition as possible to see if the center of gravity will be out of limits in that situation. In a forward adverse check, for example, all useful load in front of the forward CG limit is loaded, and all useful load behind this limit is left empty. An exception to leaving it empty is the fuel tank. If the fuel tank is located behind the forward CG limit, it cannot be left empty because the aircraft cannot fly without fuel. In this case, an amount of fuel is accounted for, which is known as minimum fuel. Minimum fuel is typically that amount needed for 30 minutes of flight at cruise power.

For a piston engine powered aircraft, minimum fuel is calculated based on the METO (maximum except take-off) horsepower of the engine. For each METO horsepower of the engine, one-half pound of fuel is used. This amount of fuel is based on the assumption that the piston engine in cruise flight will burn 1 lb of fuel per hour for each horsepower, or 1⁄2 lb for 30 minutes. The piston engines currently used in small general aviation aircraft are actually more efficient than that, but the standard for minimum fuel has remained the same.

Minimum fuel is calculated as follows:

Minimum Fuel (pounds) = Engine METO Horsepower ÷ 2

For example, if a forward adverse condition check was being done on a piston engine powered twin, with each engine having a METO horsepower of 500, the minimum fuel would be 250 lb (500 METO Hp ÷ 2).

For turbine engine powered aircraft, minimum fuel is not based on engine horsepower. If an adverse condition check is being performed on a turbine engine powered aircraft, the aircraft manufacturer would need to supply information on minimum fuel.