Bingo Fuel

Aircraft · 5 min read · Aug 10, 2022
bingo fuel


The aviation world is full of terms that are unusual to outsiders. These are known as informal military slang used in military aviation. “Bingo” and “Joker” fuel are one of them.

BINGO is a game of chance. However, a pilot in the air shouldn’t take chances! What’s more, the Pilot/Controller glossary does not contain the word BINGO either, as one might anticipate. In civil aviation, the bingo field is used less commonly so, air traffic controllers might be unaware of this term.

Let’s dive into its meaning.

What is bingo fuel?

Bingo fuel is an important figure that most navigators use to determine how close they are to their destination.

This will give pilot a better idea of when to immediately call for fuel supply and land.

It is the minimum fuel a jet aircraft requires to make a safe landing. The Bingo term refers to the fuel an air jet entails for completing its flight from point A to point B. This shows fuel status and minimum fuel required in a scenario that forces a pilot to take permission from air traffic control to land immediately.

A plane being refueled at an airport.

What is joker fuel?

“Joker fuel” is a calculated quantity of fuel surplus bingo fuel.

The amount of fuel is higher than the bingo fuel amount. Joker fuel entails a reserve fuel, while bingo fuel jet aircraft only has the minimum fuel to safely reach the destination. It is a more estimated value than bingo fuel.

Difference between bingo fuel and joker fuel

Bingo will get you home while Joker fuel is plenty to make it to the following accessible airfield. Bingo requires emergency handling.

History of the term bingo fuel

“Bingo” originally means to divert. According to the US Navy, the Bingo profile is when aircraft is in an emergency fuel situation. Pilots calculate the required minimum fuel and give an okay bingo call before departing to fly safely.

This term originated during World War II; pilots used “bingo” when their fuel reservoirs reached a minimum level; they would tell over radio communications “bingo fuel.”

Estimates of aircraft fuel reserves are based on several variables. This covers alternative airports concerning the location, airport holding intervals, and the fuel burn profile particular to the aircraft type.

Why should you NEVER use the term bingo fuel in civil aviation?

It is advised to not use the “bingo” term during the flight. Bingo fuel is a military term and might be unknown to even people sitting at the air traffic control.

Pilots using the term during the flight will only cause communication gaps and cause hurdles in emergency handling. Because ATC cannot tell you what your fuel situation really looks like.

They might fail to declare an emergency when needed.

Declaring an emergency fuel condition

As a pilot, don’t hesitate to declare an emergency, as the FAA advises frequently. Using non-standard language or slang to communicate with an air traffic controller is never good.

Declaring an emergency is less expensive than having your main gear tire blow out or risking an aircraft accident, even if paperwork is needed after landing. The pilot should do better to declare an emergency and refrain from using slang in their radio communications.


Due to fuel shortage, a scheduled flight between Medellin and Manhattan crashed into a mountain. A passenger aircraft left Medellin airport with enough fuel to land safely at the JFK airport. A lack of communication between the pilot and the aircraft traffic control and the pilot’s inadequate fuel loading caused the flight to more fuel burn.

Initially, the pilot did not consider this an emergency since they were not using the term emergency. The plane tried to land at JFK, but because of bad conditions, bad CRM, and poor fuel planning and calculation of fuel remaining, it crashed. The accident could have been avoided if pilots were monitoring their fuel gauges or by asking the ATC for priority handling.

Why is bingo fuel important?

For safety reasons, you must accurately know how much fuel you have on board. Bingo fuel indicates fuel starvation. After takeoff, the EGT should be measured and compared to the required amount for a safe flight back to base. If there is insufficient fuel on board, the plane would need an emergency landing at an alternate airport.

So, the pilot should calculate bingo before an immediate take-off roll prior. If the pilot is flying on reserve fuel after calling for bingo. The reserve fuel is worth 30 to 40 minutes to fly safely.

An aircraft being refueled at an airport by a green and yellow fuel truck,

Emergency fuel and minimum fuel 

A few different terms are used when referring to fuel, and emergency one is one of the more commonly used terms in aviation. However, it is important to know that it differs from the term minimum fuel. These are the terms used when calculating the fuel your aircraft needs to keep flying during flight.

Difference Between emergency fuel and minimum fuel

Do emergency and minimum fuel mean the same? Absolutely not!

The difference between emergency fuel and minimum fuel is that emergency one indicates how much fuel remains on the aircraft after the required reserve has been calculated. This means that the aircraft will not be able to delay its landing because of low fuel.

On the other hand, minimum fuel is used to indicate a low amount of aircraft fuel. The aircraft may still be able to do a normal landing on an active runway if there is insufficient fuel to complete the flight.

How do you calculate emergency fuel and minimum fuel to fly safe?

Each airline has regulations that govern the minimum time the aircraft can wait before it has to be refueled. This amount of time is known as the waiting time. When the aircraft reaches the waiting time, it is considered in a fuel emergency and requires emergency handling.

To calculate the amount of emergency fuel needed, you first need to determine how much reserve the aircraft has. This is done by subtracting the current fuel weight from the required reserve weight.

How is bingo fuel determined?

Bingo fuel can be calculated by adding reserved fuel, the furthest alternate, and the fuel to the destination.

Regardless of the operation and the aircraft being used, reserve fuel will always remain the same. This fuel must be on board and can only use in emergency cases.

The farthest alternate instructs you to use the distant alternate if you have more than one. A flight may have two potential destinations depending on the conditions and the kind of operation.

And the necessary fuel to the destination. The only component of the equation that is ever-changing is this one. It depends on how much fuel you’re using right now and how far away the destination actually is.

An aircraft being refueled for a late evening flights in India.

What are the factors that affect fuel efficiency?

Factors that affect fuel efficiency are the following:

  1. The weight and type of load being transported. Some airlines allow some shippers to load that consume extra fuel when they pay for shipping their goods on scheduled flights. This is known as optional fuel. This makes them take a longer route, affecting fuel efficiency.
  2. The number of passengers on the plane. The more passengers, the more fuel is used per passenger.
  3. The weather conditions at takeoff and landing. Strong winds, flying in snow and hot weather increase the fuel consumption of an airplane.
  4. The type of airplane being flown. Modern airlines consume less fuel than older planes. This is due to the higher efficiencies of modern engines and airframes.
  5. Maintenance. The condition of the plane and engine also affects fuel efficiency.


In conclusion, because pilots are required to be prudent in their actions, they can recognize that bingo fuel means fuel that is to be consumed quickly, without an expectation of future use. We hope this article helped you in understanding how important is to not use any slang or informal term in civil aviation, instead it is always better to use relevant and needed terminologies.

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Jet pilot @NASA

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