From what I hear, it looks like it's a standard procedure that ATC asks about fuel on board whenever an aircraft declares an emergency. Do they need the information for their own planning purpose or just to pass it along to the fire crew so that they get prepared for possible emergency situations like a fire upon landing?

I thought the second was the correct reason, but the fact that some pilots report fuel in remaining time, not in pounds, gets me confused.

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    $\begingroup$ Some pilots may report fuel remaining in time because they do not have the remaining fuel volume to hand. A PA-28 fueled to the tabs will have 128 litres and that will give a flight time of 3.5 hours. If the emergency occurs 90 minutes in, the pilot will know that there are 2hrs of fuel left, but will have to calculate the remaining volume - not a distraction you want when you have an emergency $\endgroup$ Aug 12, 2017 at 10:14
  • $\begingroup$ @DaveGremlin At least on all of the PA-28s I've flown, the fuel gauges are marked in volume (which makes sense, considering fuel burn per time varies by throttle setting.) Granted, whether the fuel gauges on the PA-28 should be believed or not is another question... $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Aug 13, 2017 at 5:40
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    $\begingroup$ In most light GA aircraft, the most accurate fuel gauge is your clock. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Brass
    Apr 8, 2018 at 9:19

1 Answer 1


It depends on the type of situation. If the aircraft is unable to land for some reason, we'll want to know the remaining fuel to get an idea of how long the aircraft can realistically stay airborne. For an aircraft coming in for an emergency landing - as you have already guessed - the reason we ask for remaining fuel is because the fire and rescue personel needs this information. We will also ask such an aircraft if they have any dangerous goods onboard, since we need to pass this info on to the fire crew as well.

During an emergency, we have a checklist to follow that reminds us which information we need to obtain, and who needs to know what is going on. For a tower position, it may look something like this:

enter image description here

As you can see, fuel and dangerous goods are grouped together, indicating that they are essentially the same thing - something that may cause fire, explode or otherwise cause danger during evacuation of the aircraft.

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    $\begingroup$ Why is there something blacked out on that sheet? $\endgroup$
    – Polygnome
    Aug 12, 2017 at 9:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Polygnome I'd imagine it's "Inform <name>" and redacted as personal information. $\endgroup$
    – ceejayoz
    Aug 12, 2017 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ @polygnome Because it is not relevant in this context $\endgroup$ Aug 12, 2017 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ @BruceWayne It's an intelligence agency. They have to make sure to clean up any evidence of the chemicals used for the chemtrails in case of a crash. :) $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Aug 13, 2017 at 5:43
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    $\begingroup$ @lemonincider Could be any number of reasons. Maybe they communicate on a different frequency or via telephone, or maybe the information was already relayed before the start of the recordings you have seen $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2017 at 4:10

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