Instructions for fuelling an airplane, by Jeremy Cole:

Instructions for fueling an airplane, by Jeremy Cole:

  • Position the plane so that you’re abeam the fuel pump and can easily read the display from the far wing. Hahaha, okay nevermind, that’ll never work, so position the plane so that you can walk back and forth to check the fuel pump display occasionally while cursing at the mosquitos that keep biting you.
  • Pull out the ground wire and attach it to something metal on the plane. ziiiiipokay it reeled itself back up because you didn’t click it into a retention clicky-spot in the reel. Fetch the wire and re-attach it to the plane. ziiiiiiiip Okay, maybe the reel is broken, wedge the wire under the tire and then attach it to the plane again.
  • Find the terminal that controls the pumps. Try in vain to read the display which is either washed out by the sun or impossible to read at night. Press OK to confirm you have grounded your plane. Press OK again. Press REALLY HARD on OK because it’s mostly worn out.
  • Choose whether you want to “fill up” the plane, buy a specific amount by either “gallons” or “dollars”. However you can’t read any of the buttons because the labels are worn off, so choose “G______S” for gallons. Whatever you do don’t choose “F___ _P” because it will “F___ _P” your credit card by placing a hold of $500-$1000 on it.
  • Enter the amount of gallons you wish to buy, it’s okay to choose higher, it will place a hold on this amount but you won’t get charged for it, you’ll get charged for only what you use. So you want 35 gallons, press 3, then 5. 3? What? Oh maybe the 5 key doesn’t work, so say you want 36 gallons instead. (Remember you only get charged for what you actually take.)
  • It will ask you to enter your N number, use the “letter select” and number keys to type in your N number. But you’re flying N335SP and remember the 5 key doesn’t work, so just settle for N33SP because why do they actually ask this again?
  • Press enter to confirm. Press enter again. Now again REALLY HARD.
  • Wait for somewhere between 1 minute and until the heat death of the universe for the pump to validate your credit card via 1200 baud modem in a call to Nepal where the entire world’s AvGas fuel pump credit card service is hosted.
  • OK, transaction validated!
  • Grab the hose and pull it out, walk all the way to the far wing until you have plenty of hose to fill up that wing. Climb the ladder, remove the fuel cap, and place the nozzle in the opening. Squeeze the handle. Wonder why it’s not working. Squeeze again. Pump the handle. Sigh.
  • Glance sidelong at the fuel pump and notice there’s a lever over there you didn’t move (or maybe an unmarked button which you didn’t press). Climb down the ladder, walk over, and move the lever (or maybe press the button, but it does kinda look like an emergency shutoff button, and you’re not sure). Nothing happens.
  • Walk back to the terminal and notice the screen says “TRANSACTION TIMED OUT” and there’s a $0.00 receipt printed and blowing in the wind. Start over at step 3. Now you know what you have to do.
  • Climb back up the ladder and squeeze the handle. FUEL IS FLOWING!!! Sweet glory!
  • Notice that the hose is reeling itself back up because the high pressure has given it a life of its own and you didn’t ensure the hose clicked into one of the clicky retention clicks. Oh no it’s really pulling now and this ladder is pretty shaky. Climb down the ladder and pull the hose back out until it’s definitely clicked and won’t get reeled up again. Climb back up the ladder and keep fueling.
  • How much fuel was supposed to go in this wing?! How much has been pumped so far?! The display is 40 feet away and has numbers that are only 1″ tall, so there’s no hope of reading it from here. Look around for someone to help you but find no one. And if you fill up the plane you’ll be way over max gross after you pick up your friends. Climb down the ladder and walk over to the pump to check how much fuel you’ve put in. Oh, only 2 gallons and you need 20 in this wing. Repeat the fuel-a-bit-and-climb-down-to-check dance a dozen or more times.
  • OK, one wing done. Climb down and move the ladder to the other wing. Trip over the tangle of fuel hose on your way there and nearly bang the ladder on the prop. Repeat the fueling dance if you want to, but if you correctly entered the number of G_____S you wanted the pump will stop at the right amount. Unless one of the keys wasn’t working and you had to choose a few more gallons than you really wanted. Sucks to be you.
  • Replace the fuel cap and climb down the ladder.
  • Pull firmly on the fuel hose to allow the mechanism to reel it back up. Hmm it’s kind of sluggish. WHOAH IT’S GOING SO FAST. And now it’s all wound over itself to such a diameter in one spot that it won’t all go back in the reel. Pull it back out and re-wind it while trying to guide it with your foot and getting black rubber residue all over your hands and feet. It’s back in now. Well 10 feet are still sticking out and that’s not how it was when you started, but screw it. Move the lever back to turn the pump off.
  • Unclip the ground wire, un-wedge it from under your wheel, and let it reel itself back up. It stops halfway and won’t reel any more. Pull it back out and try various speeds: really slow, really fast, alternating slow and fast, until you eventually get it all rewound.
  • Sump your fuel while wondering about the futility of checking for foreign matter or water in a tank that was just stirred up/mixed by 20 gallons of inrushing fuel.
  • Now is the easy part. Hot starting your plane. Read the directions in the POH. Do exactly what it says. Hmm, it’s not starting. Is it flooded? Is it too lean? Alternately try each strategy and curse while you’re sweating through your shirt under the hot sun blocking a line of 5 planes for the fuel pump. Eventually it starts. Taxi and takeoff.
  • Realize you forgot your receipt, and you need that to get reimbursed for the fuel. Land, taxi back to the fuel island, but it’s not there. Fish your receipt out of the trash can.
  • Now it’s time to hot start your plane again. Re-read the instructions in the POH. Try it again. Now it’s a really hot start. Smell a lot of fuel in the air. Maybe it’s flooded? Try the flooded start procedure. It kicks over and dies immediately. Is it now too lean? Or maybe it’s still flooded? Leave it sitting for a few minutes. Try to start again, it’s turning over pretty sluggishly now as the battery drains. It mercifully kicks over and keeps running.
  • Taxi for takeoff again. You have conquered refueling. At this airport. Every single one is different. 😉

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