There are many questions plane passengers and airplane enthusiasts have about operating a commercial jet, with fuel being one of them. It’s certainly a topic I am always concerned about when flying. Do we have enough fuel to get off of the ground and what about to our destination?
Are they sure about that? Can someone double-check? That’s my train of thought when it comes to fueling a commercial passenger jet.
Now, what about how many gallons it takes to fuel a commercial passenger jet? Here’s the answer to that question, along with how many gallons it takes a jet per flight hour.
About Fueling Commercial Passenger Jets
Jet fuel or aviation fuel is needed for commercial passenger jet operations. Without the fuel, you can’t fly far! There are two different kinds of fuel that is used for this type of aircraft:
- AVGAS or aviation gasoline
- Jet Fuel
The use of jet fuel is for turbine-engine jets, while AVGAS is for piston-engine planes. For a commercial passenger jet, you are talking about jet fuel, Jet A or Jet A1, the latter of which is best suited for long-haul transcontinental flights. By the way, jet fuel is cheaper per gallon than AVIGAS.
You can track the current price of jet fuel here at Airlines for America.
For March 24, 2022, for example, the price of jet fuel is $4.12 a gallon according to the Argus US Jet Fuel Index. Compare this to the price of AVGAS on the same day at the SeaTac Airport in Seattle, Washington. The price is $5.72 to $7.50 a gallon at the surrounding airports.
So, as commercial passenger jet fuel is cheaper per gallon than private airplane fuel, how many gallons of fuel does a jet plane compared to a small piston-engine plane burn per mile?
Determining Jet Fuel Burn Rates
To get to this answer, we have to figure out jet fuel burn rates. Here a pilot has to consider a lot of factors when deciding what the fuel burn rate is for a flight. Sherpa Report states that, “Typically, the pilot of an aircraft will think in terms of pounds per hour (pph) since the overall weight of the aircraft, including fuel, passengers, cargo, etc. is a key factor in any flight plan.
Passengers or owners, on the other hand, tend to think in terms of gallons since this is how fuel is priced.”
If they miscalculate, they are likely to run out of fuel and put their passengers and aircraft at risk. Typically, the concern is having enough fuel to get to the next stop where a plane is able to refuel, regardless of whether they are at their final destination. The pilot calculates the fuel costs according to the burn rate for that particular model of aircraft, such as a commercial JumboJet aka the Boeing 747.
The fuel burn rate for commercial passenger jets also varies according to the size. The aircraft categories are:
- Turboprops, including the King Air 350
- Light jets, including the Cessna Citation M2
- Mid-size jets, including the Bombardier Challenger 300
- Long-range jets, including the Gulfstream G550
Once a pilot knows what the specifics are for a flight, they are able to calculate a burn rate. To calculate fuel burn rate in aviation, you determine the gallon per hour (GPH) by multiplying horsepower (HP) by specific fuel consumption and dividing this by the fuel specific weight.
Pilots also calculate:
- Amount of fuel used per hour
- Kilometers per liter
- Minimum fuel
- Rate of consumption for fuel burn off
- Total fuel consumption time
This information goes into solving the puzzle of how many gallons of fuel a commercial jet goes through in a flight.
Answer to the Question of Fuel Consumption for Jets
A commercial jet like the Boeing 747, which is one of the most popular commercial passenger jets, uses 1 gallon of jet fuel per second. That is 60 gallons of jet fuel per minute, and that is 3,600 gallons of jet fuel over the course of an hour of flight. This calculates as 36,000 gallons of jet fuel in a flight lasting 10 hours, which is a typical international flight time.
This is going to vary according to the factors I’ve mentioned already, including the weather conditions and how many passengers are on board during a flight. However, that’s quite a lot of jet fuel for a single flight. Let me see how this compares to a small single engine plane, the use of AVGAS, which is a gasoline-type fuel, to the diesel-like jet fuel cost.
The fuel burn rate for a small plane is 5 to 10 gallons per hour. A small plane like a Cessna 172 burns only about 10 gallons per hour and that is at about $6 per gallon. Sixty dollars an hour to operate a plane using 10 gallons of fuel is miniscule in comparison to the jet fuel burn rate of a commercial passenger jet.
So let me show you another comparison that makes more sense!
Compare a Commercial Jet to a Swimming Pool
The easiest way for me to explain how much fuel a commercial jet uses for a flight would be to compare that amount of fuel to the total volume of a swimming pool. An above ground swimming pool that is 48 inches deep (4 feet) and has a 12 foot round shape will need only 3,200 gallons of water to fill it. Compare this to a 30-foot round pool that is 48 inches deep, which needs 21,240 gallons of water.
Both of these above ground swimming pools combined would not hold enough liquid to fill up a commercial passenger jet for a single flight.
What about an inground pool, which is far deeper? How does that compare? Take, for example, a pool that has an average depth of 5 feet with a size of 12 by 24 feet in a rectangular shape.
This pool would use 10,800 gallons of water. Still not enough! It would actually take the largest pool size of them all–the 24 by 44 foot inground pool–with the capacity for 39,600 gallons, to fill up a fuel tank on a commercial passenger jet plane.
That’s a lot of fluids!