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Why You Should Never Use The Phrase 'Bingo Fuel'

Boldmethod

Hollywood is great at two things: entertaining people, and misinforming them about what pilots should say. Ok, so they do a little more than that, but you can't always believe what you hear.

If you watch aviation movies (admit it, you've seen quite a few), you've no doubt heard the term 'Bingo Fuel'. But what does the phrase really mean?

In the civilian aviation world, it doesn't mean anything. That's because it's not part of the Pilot/Controller Glossary, which is the go-to guide for what you should say when you key the mic. What does this mean for you? It means you should never use the phrase 'Bingo Fuel', because ATC won't know what your exact fuel situation is.

Sow how did the phrase Bingo Fuel come to be? As it turns out, it's a military term. We won't go into the details of what it means in the military world, since we're talking about the civilian side of flying today. However, if you're still curious about the meaning of Bingo Fuel, Jesse Gonzalez did a nice job summarizing how the USMC/USN uses the term in the comments section of our Facebook page.

Choose Your Words Wisely

According to the FAA Safety Team, a pilot recently used the term while approaching to land at an airport. The pilot deviated from an ATC instruction, and a runway incursion followed. Here's the FAA's summary of what happened:

The C-210 landed on the active runway after being told to go around (twice) by the Tower due to insufficient separation from the preceding aircraft, a C-172 executing a previously approved stop and go maneuver. The Tower issued both go around instructions prior to the C-210 crossing the Runway threshold.

The C-210 landed on the runway after announcing 'BINGO FUEL.' Noting that the C-210 was not going around, the Tower told the C-172 to start an immediate take-off roll prior to the C-210 landing. Aggressive braking by the C-210 pilot led to the aircraft making a 180-degree turn on the runway resulting in a blown right main gear tire. Closest proximity to the preceding aircraft reported by the Tower was 300 feet.

Don't Be Afraid To Declare An Emergency

The unfortunate part of this story is had the pilot immediately declared an emergency, the controller would have known right away what the pilot needed, and may have been able to get the 172 out of the way sooner.

As the FAA often says, don't be afraid to declare an emergency. Using slang, non-standard communication is never a good way of getting your point across to ATC. And even if paperwork is required after landing (which by the way, it typically isn't), declaring an emergency is less expensive then blown tires and a potential aircraft collision.




Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at colin@boldmethod.com.

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