A tiny technical hiccup

Mike is very busy with this year’s fire season, so I have to write this blog, even though he would be way more qualified to talk about the issue of refueling aircraft. As far as I know, there was quite a bit of fuel shortage on various airports so that they sometimes couldn’t even refuel the fire helicopter. You’d think that those would be a priority.

Now I’ve never run out of fuel in my life, but I came close once or twice. Many years ago, my wife (then girlfriend) and I drove down to Croatia for a vacation. I don’t know where exactly the last gas station was that we passed, but it looked like we still had plenty of fuel in the tank. We were driving on a brand new highway and thought that at the exit there’s bound to be a service station. There was no service station. In hindsight that probably was exactly because the highway was brand new. So we drove on, along a barren country road. It was already night, but there was bound to be a town or gas station, somewhere, right? Wrong. We drove on and on and watched the fuel gauge drop lower and lower. Then the warning light came on and we were already going through scenarios of what to do if we end up stranded on a deserted country road in the middle of the night. I think we made it about 40km with the warning light on … Well, unspectacular ending to the story: We finally reached our destination and rolled into the first gas station at the edge of town on our last fumes.

That all happened before the time of smartphones with Google Maps. Nowadays, it’d be quite a bit easier to find the next gas station. But I noticed that the gas station density varies greatly from country to country. Here where I live, it seems there is one at every other corner.

Has anyone of you ever actually run out of gas? If so, in your car or in your plane?


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8 comments on “A tiny technical hiccup
  1. HiddenWindshield says:

    Yep, I’ve run out of fuel once that I remember, back when I was young and stupid. I was headed home from a friend’s house at about 1am. I was still a new enough driver that I didn’t have the habit of monitoring my fuel gauge, and the car didn’t have a warning light, so the first notice I had was when the engine started stalling and surging. Fortunately, I was close enough to the next exit that I was able to get off the highway and locate a gas station. It was so close that the engine actually died less than a hundred yards from the pump, and I had to coast into position.

    It was only then that I discovered that the pumps were broken at that gas station, and they couldn’t pump any gas. And there wasn’t another gas station within walking distance, so I had to call my friend (using a pay phone, this was before cell) to come rescue me anyway.

  2. JP Kalishek says:

    An old friend used to own a large gas station on the north side of Nashville, TN. It was near the bottom of a long hill and the exit was the first one for some tome with gas when driving south. Often you’d see someone walking on the shoulder of the Interstate, sometimes carrying a gas can, and when the cleared the trees and got a look at the exit, they’d turn around and walk back up the hill, then you’d see a car rolling down the shoulder, and if they timed it right, they could roll through the light off the exit and into the pumps, or just have a short walk across the road to carry gas.
    There is still a station at his old location, but it is a different set up, no longer full service etc. The other three that were there are now down to one, and on the eastern side of the interstate is a large truck stop that was not there at the time. The two close places were one small full service station that was one old guy doing the repairs and he was the owner looking to retire. The other was the biggest seller (taking over from my buddy’s place before he bought it, and he never got past them before selling, iirc, but was neck and neck with them) but is now an empty lot.

  3. Felix says:

    What plane is that twin in the second square?

  4. Bernd says:

    In an aircraft I never completely ran out of fuel, but almost did with our flight school’s Archer II after an early solo flight. I landed ok, but got a call from my instructor the next day to make sure I knew about tank-switching and fuel gauges. The active tank was so empty that I could have gotten into serious trouble in a go-around.

    Ever since then I’ve always been very conservative about fuel, and never landed with less than an hour’s worth of fuel on board.

    In a car I only completely ran out once, but wasn’t far from home and could call a friend to bring us some diesel.

    I almost ran out a second time, and only just barely rolled into a (luckily fully automated) gas station late at night. On the Autobahn the engine had already stumbled a couple of time, drawing air from the nearly exhausted fuel supply.

    Chuck got lucky here, running out during taxi, and not take-off.

  5. Tom says:

    I run out of gas twice in a car. Once the fuel gauge had failed and the other time I thought it had failed as I couldn’t believe that this new-to-me car would guzzle so much fuel.

    On a plane I cut it too close for any comfort once. Filling it up again actually took half a litre more than the usable fuel stated in the POH. I guess I mostly emptied my bag of luck that day and added a coin to my bag of experience.

  6. Dom says:

    I ran out of gas for the first time just a couple weeks ago… a kid was trying to earn some money, and so offered to clean my motorbike for a few bucks. He accidently knocked the fuel line off the carb, and so all the fuel spilled out of the tank… neither of us noticed, and the next day I ran out of gas on my way to work… oops.

  7. James W says:

    I ran out once while driving to a work appointment. Like a lot of people in Minnesota, I kept several containers of `Heet` in the car, and adding two to the tank got me the rest of the way into town. (Heet is a gas dryer, eg a half-liter of alcohol, in common use in northern winters.) This approach might not be feasible while flying.

  8. Quieteyes says:

    I’ve run out of gas in my Prius twice and both times I was able to make it to the gas station on the battery. Having a hybrid is handy sometimes.😊

    I actually ran out of gas in my old Ford Probe. It had a distance to empty meter that stopped working below 63 miles left. I was young and assumed I had all of those 63 miles available to me. I was so not worried that went to work and then to lunch and back to work with it in this state before even considering looking for a station. It didn’t occur to me that starting and stopping the engine used up more gas (ironic since the Prius does that all the time to save gas).

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