Today at work we were talking about standard phraseology for ATC. I’m not a fan of people who say “No Joy” or “Tallyho” It’s outdated and unless you’re an old military aviators, you may just be trying a bit hard to sound cool on the radio. I’m very much for standard phraseology because it just makes communication that much easier between all parties involved. It also prevents accidents due to miscommunication.
“Bingo Fuel” is a biggie that is commonly used and also caused a miscommunication with the (somewhat) recent emergency landing by Allegiant. Okay, first what is bingo fuel? That is what can be the issue. I’ve seen that “‘Bingo fuel’ is a military term meaning the pilot doesn’t have enough fuel for anything but returning to base and cannot continue on a mission.” But more commonly now, it’s referred to as the fuel number when reached the aircraft has to divert to an alternate and keep their 45 minutes of FAR required reserve on board. At least, that’s the way most people talk about it to me. Two totally different things, right?
Here’s the issue I think though, there is no good term to replace it. “Minimum fuel” has been used to replace it sometimes, but then you’re bordering on declaring a fuel emergency. If you’re using bingo fuel to refer to the latter of the two, that’s not really the case.
From speaking with my pilot resource (Jake), he said it’s quite common pilots will come up with two different numbers when calculating bingo fuel in a holding situation too. Ugh, that’s not good either! Obviously, they always pick the more conservative one just in case. As a dispatcher, when I have a plane in holding I’ll also calculate it for myself. Unfortunately, my snazzy flight planning software doesn’t do it for me. So it’s good ol’ pen and paper! The way I calculate “bingo fuel” is what the 45 minutes of reserve is plus the fuel it takes to get to the alternate plus the burn from their holding position to the airport (since what is they go missed and still need to divert once there?).
I don’t actually have a good solution, just something to think about for those in training. I recently had a captain declare a fuel emergency to ATC, but then he landed well over reserve fuel. Was he confused between fuel emergency and minimum fuel? Possibly, I’ll never know since he didn’t share this information with me. I only found out when the FAA showed up at my desk at work asking for paperwork. That was a fun day for me! But I get not sharing with me: aviate, navigate, communicate, if he thought it was an actual emergency I was last on the list. But if he did send me an ACARS we could have compared “bingo fuel” numbers!