The world of aviation isn’t short of unique phrases, one of which is Bingo Fuel.

But what does Bingo Fuel mean?

Where does the term come from?

Do or even should pilots say Bingo Fuel when they communicate with air traffic control?

What Does Bingo Fuel Mean?

Generally, speaking, Bingo Fuel means the minimum amount of fuel that is required to safely reach an airport.

However, Bingo Fuel is more of a military term.

A more precise definition comes from the U.S. Navy, who state that Bingo Fuel is:

“An order to proceed and land at the field specified, utilizing a bingo profile. Aircraft is considered to be in an emergency/fuel critical situation. Bearing, distance, and destination shall be provided.”

In terms of the military, Bingo Fuel means the amount of fuel remaining to safely reach the “Bingo Field”, which is the closest land based airfield used as an alternate in case the aircraft is unable to land at its original point (or aircraft carrier in the case of the Navy).

The Term Was First Used in WW2

The term Bingo Fuel is believed to originate from the United States military pilots in World War II.

The traditional call of “Bingo” is said when the game of Bingo is over – i.e. it’s almost game over when it comes to the amount of fuel left.

How Bingo Fuel is Calculated

Bingo Fuel is calculated using three variables:

  • Reserve Fuel: The reserve fuel will always remain the same depending on the operation and the airplane being used.
  • Farthest Alternate: If there is one or more alternate, the farthest one is used. This can depend on the weather and the type of operation.
  • Fuel to the Destination: Fuel to the destination depends on the current fuel burn and the actual distances to the destination.

Here’s an example of how to calculate Bingo Fuel.

Reserve Fuel: 1,500 lbs
Farthest Alternate: 2,000 lbs
Fuel to the Destination: 900 lbs

Simply add up the reserve fuel, the farthest alternate, and the fuel to the destination to get the Bingo Fuel.

So, in our example, the Bingo Fuel is 4,400 lbs.

Pilots Shouldn’t Actually Use the Phrase Bingo Fuel

Pilots shouldn’t use the phrase Bingo Fuel because it is not a part of the Pilot/Controller Glossary and therefore isn’t a term that is used in civil aviation.

If a pilot says Bingo Fuel, ATC might either not understand what is being said unless they were in the military or picked the term up along the way, and/or won’t know what the exact situation of the pilot is.

Furthermore, the calculated fuel reserves along with things diversions and holding times all play a role in determining fuel emergencies, so the exact situation is unclear if a pilot simply uses the term Bingo Fuel.

What Does Joker Fuel Mean?

Joker Fuel differs from Bingo Fuel due to it including a preplanned transition point in the flight instead of having to divert, which is when Bingo Fuel is used.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.