If a multi-engine aircraft runs out of fuel, can the engines flame out at different times due to fuel inequality between the tanks, or do they both die at the same time because fuel is constantly balanced?

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the replies. In the case of the possible track of MH370 there is very good correlation between a constant track, constant speed and the Inmarsat ping ring data at specific times. That is until the distance between the 5th and 6th arc which, if the speed is kept constant, the distance is too short. I suspect that an engine shut down during this leg and the aircraft slowed whilst still being kept at height and on track by the auto pilot. $\endgroup$
    – Spruce
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 8:33
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    $\begingroup$ Be careful not to confuse "starvation" with "exhaustion" - Starvation is defined as "engine(s) not getting fuel" whereas exhaustion is "tanks have run dry". Fuel starvation can happen with plenty of fuel remaining (John Denver's crash comes to mind). $\endgroup$
    – pr1268
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 10:40

1 Answer 1


On multi-engine aircraft the engine on one side is normally fed by the respective tank, so the left engine(s) is fed by the left tank etc... it is possible to cross-feed to allow access to all the fuel in the event of an engine failure.

In order for a simultaneous run down to occur - both tanks would have to have precisely the same amount of fuel loaded and both engines would have to burn fuel at exactly the same rate, which is unlikely.

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    $\begingroup$ While it is unlikely, starting with the same amount of fuel and consuming it at exactly the same rate is not the only way to get to both running out at the same time. There are, of course, an infinite number of possible ways to get to the point of them running out at the same time. It just there are a lot more ways that doesn't happen. $\endgroup$
    – Makyen
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 1:12

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