News | Sept. 20, 2016

Fueling the mission

By Philip Carter 21st Space Wing Public Affairs

When the low fuel light comes on in privately owned vehicle, the driver simply needs to pull into a nearby gas station to refuel. It’s not so easy for an aircraft.

Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., is a base with a space situational awareness and early warning mission, so people sometimes wonder if there is an active flightline. Even with a primarily space-based mission, the operations tempo on Peterson’s flightline is high and the second busiest in the Air Force for distinguished visitors. The Defense Logistics Agency’s Olgoonik Technical Services fuels contract for the 21st logistics Readiness Squadron, is up for the challenge of keeping up with the fast pace.

They aren’t just responsible for refueling aircraft though. They also deal with the safety, storage and maintenance of equipment, fuels, and facilities.

The fuels shop here is smaller than most in the Air Force, but they keep up with the pace of the mission, which is to fuel all aircraft that fly into and out of the installation.

Fuels distribution system operators are able to order, receive, store, transfer and issue fuel. The different areas of operations are the accounting office, the laboratory, the locks, and distribution of fuel to the aircraft.

“Jet-A fuel is what’s used for aircraft on the flightline,” said Thomas Meyer, DLA alternate terminal manager. “At the military service station and the transportation yard there is diesel, bio-diesel, E-85 and unleaded fuel.”

When a call is made to the dispatch center that an aircraft needs to be refueled, a fuel truck is dispatched. While the aircraft is being fueled, the accounting office begins the paperwork to bill the organization of the aircraft being fueled, said Thomas Meyer.

Most aircraft take 15 to 20 minutes to fill, but it can take much longer when it comes to large aircraft. Air-refueling tankers can take as much as five full fuel trucks to fill them up, said Donnie Ivey, DLA terminal manager.

After the aircraft is fueled and sent on their way, the trucks return to the fuel yard and are refilled with fuel. Safety is built into every step they complete while the truck is being refilled. The dual-safety includes an automatic shut-off when the fuel reaches the top of the tank, and also a kill-switch that shuts off the pump if anything were to happen to the operator and they release their grip on the switch.

“Everything we do with fuel or liquid oxygen is hazardous” said Meyer. “Even the smallest of sparks could set off the fuel, so safety is key.”

That includes the warning of lightening within five miles of Peterson, which essentially shuts down the shop due to the fire hazard.
When the trucks are refueled, the operators give them a total inspection. They first start with all the systems on the truck, including the oil, water, lights, pumping system and more. A sample of fuel is taken from the truck after refueling and visually checked for water and sediment. It is then sent to the lab for more thorough testing.

“Lab work basically checks the integrity of the fuels,” said Nicole Lira, a fuels distribution system operators with DLA. “We check all fuels we are responsible for, like fuels that are delivered to base, fuels that are stored in our large tanks, and the fuels in our trucks to make sure the fuel is in compliance with Air Force (Instructions).”

Another part of the fuel shop is the fuels information service center.

“We call it the hotbox because that is where everything goes to the dispatcher,” she said. “Any fuel purchased for official use goes through their office except for nitrogen and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.”

This section also keeps track of all the fuel used by government vehicles on Peterson. They do this by using the Vehicle Identification link (the little black gas key) issued out to all the different government vehicles, which are then programmed with the information of the organization using them. This allows them to track usage and bill the customer.

“We handle every military vehicle that is assigned to Peterson,” said Ivey.

The hotbox supports all accounting and the military service stations on both Schriever AFB and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.

The Air Force is known for its “fly-fight-win” mission, but fuels are just as important.

“No fuels, no flying,” said Ivey.

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Peterson Air Force Base website.