Helicopters Magazine

Features Procedures Safety & Training
Fuel for Thought

July 11, 2007  By Geoff Goodyear

We may fly different types of aircraft in different parts of the country, but there is one critical consumable we all have in common, and that’s fuel.

We may fly different types of aircraft in different parts of the
country, but there is one critical consumable we all have in common,
and that’s fuel. Billie Holliday is credited with suggesting that “They
think they can make fuel from horse manure…. Now, I don’t know if
your car will be able to get 30 miles to the gallon, but it’s sure
gonna put a stop to siphoning.”

various suppliers, particularly at the larger centres, are pretty good
at what they do and fuel quality is rarely an issue. But for those of
us who spend most of our productive lives in sparsely settled areas and
think that fuel is first shipped to everybody, everywhere in ‘barrels’,
we have a personal responsibility for fuel quality. The trick is to
make sure we exercise some control before the stuff gets into the tank.

years ago, and I do mean ‘many’, my brother Mike and I were out playing
in the driveway trying desperately to occupy ourselves. I’m not sure
how well behaved all you readers were when you were six years old, but
unless we were specifically tasked and constantly supervised we could
generate trouble very quickly. While fumbling about looking for
something to do, through a process of elimination we turned our
attention to mother’s car, a poor little blue Anglia.

We had no
malicious intent, although our actions were always interpreted as
having such, and after some discussion we determined that there would
be no harm and indeed, a very tangible benefit to all concerned if we
filled up mom’s car with gas. We were not known as the brightest lads
on the block and had no concept of combustion or hydrocarbons. As long
as it was liquid and had volume, it was eligible for our mission.


garden hose was pressed into play, uncoiled with great effort and
deposited into the car’s gas tank. One of us, I’m not sure which but
for the purpose of publication we’ll say it was Mike, turned on the
faucet and let ‘er rip. The only thing we were missing was the gas
attendant uniforms. Mother was going to be sooo proud!

We knew
the car was full when the water came out over the tank inlet, spilled
onto the ground and made quite a puddle. We turned off the water and
carefully returned the hose to its resting place and put the cap back
on the gas tank (that would have been my job because at the time I was

It was not an hour after our good deed when mother
collected the lot of us, stuffed us in the Anglia and prepared for
departure to our cabin, 20 miles away. I have no doubt that mom noticed
the huge puddle of water under the car but it did not occur to her what
might have taken place. For this lapse in judgment and poor
observational skills, I have always held her responsible for what
happened next.

The car started fine. Actually, we got about four
miles down the road, just far enough away from any useful help, when
our poor Anglia had had enough. It sputtered and came to an undignified
stop in the middle of the road.

Mother muttered something under
her breath and then asked a rhetorical question about what might be
wrong. At one point in she said to herself, “We can’t be out of gas?” I
responded instantly: “Absolutely not, mom! Mike and I filled her up
back at the house.”

She did not bother to look at us initially
but instead stared at some fixed point in the distance and squinted a
bit. This lasted for several seconds as the gravity of her situation
became clear. She wheeled around to look at these two fools in the back
seat, her two fools, smiling back at her and both obviously very proud
of themselves.

We eventually got the poor car back to the house
and for weeks afterwards we could overhear mom exclaiming to dad that
sometimes genetics is cruel and that the boys obviously take after his
side of the family….let’s hope the girls turn out OK.

Spring is
upon us and it won’t be too long before all hands are bouncing around
the countryside leaving no drum unturned. Don’t let that warm, fuzzy
sense of security you get from using bowsered fuel dull your defences.
A good set of filters with spare cartridges never goes astray, and
visual or chemical checks for drum condition and water are not a bad
idea when you are not familiar with the cache. And always keep children
at a safe distance!

Have a great summer, and safe flying.


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