One of the hot items during these ramp checks in late 2016 has been an inadequate documentation of fuel reserves on aircraft flight plans for arrival or departure. You need to have the minimum required reserve fuel listed to fly to your alternate using expected routing, not "as the crow flies" (direct).

— James Albright





Minimum fuel, 14 CFR 91

If you don't need an alternate, do you have the required holding fuel? If you do need an alternate, is the computed fuel realistic? Of course these rules change between GA and commercial operations. For the nuts and bolts about all this, see: Fuel Minimums.

Not all flight planning services do this correctly, and even those that do often default to an incorrect method. In the case of ARINCDirect, your reserve fuel may be categorized as "XTRA" and the SAFA inspector will not like that. ARINCDirect also plans the destination alternate "as the crow flies." That's another possible SAFA finding.

If you want to know how to beat a SAFA ramp check, I recommend you start here: SAFA Inspection.

1 — Example, how it was filed

2 — Example, how we planned it

3 — Example, how we corrected it



Example, how it was filed


KBED to LFPB flight plan, as filed by ARINCDirect under default alternate routing (direct).

We are a 14 CFR 91 operator with a few extra rules in our manuals to approximate what we think are industry best practices. We always file an alternate and 30 minutes of holding when flying international. On top of that, we always plan on an extra 45 minutes of fuel under the "RESV" heading. So we are good to go, right?

Look at the "ALTN EBBR 001537 00:23 140" line. That is a direct line to the alternate, 140 nautical miles as the crow flies. Will that really happen? Probably not, hence the SAFA inspector's angst.


Example, how we planned it


If you allow ARINCDirect to plan the route from LFPB to EBBR using "optimized routing" you get an actual distant of 154 nm (not 140 nm) and it will take 27 minutes (not 23). So how do we fix this?


Example, how we corrected it


LFPB to EBBR flight plan (optimized routing)


ARINCDirect Destination Routing Option

The default mode for selecting the routing between the destination and alternate is "Use Direct Route." Selecting the "Use Customer Preferred Alternate Route or ARINC Stored Alternate Route if available, otherwise Optimized Route" option fixes this problem.

Note that even this "optimized routing" solution may not be realistic, though it will probably make the inspector happy. If you find yourself doing this often, you can plan your own routing, save it, and ARINCDirect will use it under this option.

What if your flight planning service doesn't have this option? I recommend running a flight plan from destination to alternate to determine how much extra fuel will be needed and make sure you have that. If the SAFA inspector asks, you need only produce the alternate flight plan and show that you did indeed take off with enough fuel.