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Beginner's Guide to Propulsion

Range and Fuel Consumption Activity

If so instructed by your teacher, print out a worksheet page for these problems.

Before you begin:

Airplane specifications generally include pieces of information about the range, cruise speed, and fuel capacity of a given airplane. These three items make it possible to calculate fuel consumption, range, and cruise speed.


  1. To find the time it takes to travel a given distance at a given speed, use the following equation:

    Distance over Speed equals Time

  2. To find the airplane's fuel consumption:


Total Fuel over Total Time equals Fuel consumed per hour

Note: Total fuel is considered the total amount of fuel excluding any fuel reserves. Reserves can generally be considered 10% of the total amount of fuel capacity for the airplane. For airplanes that are able to fly by "IFR" (Instrument Flight Rules), or with instruments, the reserves will be higher. If this is the case, the specifications will show the IFR quantity reserves. Total time is the number that you calculated in Equation 1.


  • Using these two equations and the data from the Airplane Information sheet on four types of aircraft, answer the questions on the worksheet. (Ask your teacher if you can print the worksheet.)

  • Use the Conversion Web site for assistance with speed, distance, and/or weight conversions.

Answer the following questions:

  1. You are an acrobatic pilot getting ready to go to an air show. The air show is being held at an airport 500 nautical miles (NM) away. Given the cruising speed of the Extra 300 you are flying, how long will it take to fly to the air show?

  2. In the situation above, will you be able to fly to the air show without refueling along the way? Why or why not?

  3. A Cessna Skylane has a range of 820 NM and a cruising speed of 140 KTS. How many hours will it take you to fly 820 NM?

  4. Since the Skylane has a fuel capacity of 88 US GAL (including 10% in reserve -- Don't forget to subtract the 10% before figuring your consumption.), how many gallons of fuel per hour does it use?

  5. You are flying a Cessna Skylane at a speed of 120 KTS. You are flying on a trip that will take you 520 NM. How long will it take you to get to your destination?

  6. In the situation above, given that your Cessna holds 88 US GAL of fuel (with 10% held back as reserve fuel), how much fuel will you use? (Hint: you will need your final answer from Question 4 to find this number.)

  7. You are the pilot of a Learjet 31A leaving Chicago's Meigs airfield under dense fog conditions. You must fly using your instruments (IFR). How much fuel do you have for this flight? (Don't forget about your reserves.)

  8. You've been flying the Learjet for 1.5 hours, at a speed of Mach .76 (Visit a conversion page, like Online Conversion, to convert Mach numbers into Knots.), under visual flight conditions (VFR). How much fuel do you have left (excluding reserves)?

  9. How much farther could you fly on the fuel you have left from Question 8?

  10. You are a WW-I Sopwith Camel fighter pilot chasing the infamous "Red Baron." You are traveling at a speed of 115 KTS. You know that your enemy is 40 NM away from you. How many minutes will it take to reach him?

Related Pages:
Propulsion Activity Index
Propulsion Index


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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: Thu, May 13 02:38:39 PM EDT 2021

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