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Fill 'er up, sir

  • Published
  • By Robert Fox
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
On an average flying day, Sheppard uses about 130,000 gallons of JP-8+100. 

Pilots looking to fly depend on a fleet of green refueling trucks to bring fuel from the bulk storage tanks to the flight line. Like postal couriers, the refuel drivers transport the fuel and give full service delivery regardless of the weather, unless the weather shuts down the flight line. 

It takes three to six minutes to refuel a T-38. But that is three to six minutes in blistering heat or bitter cold. 

"It gets really hot; then it gets really cold. The elements are the hardest part," Donnie Robertson, a refuel driver, said. "You don't have a choice but to stand there in them until it's done, then you go to the next (airplane) and do it again." 

The work is also repetitive: climb out of the truck, pull the fuel line to the plane, ground the truck, ground the plane, pump the fuel, disconnect and retract the lines, climb back into the truck and go to the next aircraft. 

Mr. Robertson said if he started with a full load of 6,000 gallons in his truck he can refuel 12 T-38s or 24 T-37s. He said those numbers can slide a little depending on how long the plane was in the air. 

The job involves a lot of waiting, Mr. Robertson said. A group of planes land and two or three of the waiting trucks go to work filling their tanks, he said. Once those planes are full, he said they must all wait for another group to land before there is much of anything to do. 

Mr. Robertson said trucks work in rotation - first in, first out - so there is always one truck on stand-by when the others start returning to bulk storage to reload. 

Tom Booher, another refuel driver, said it takes about 15 minutes to reload a truck. He also said that each of the eight active trucks will reload about three times in an average day. 

The refuel trucks wouldn't be able to run if it weren't for the four-man team that runs the bulk storage facility. According to Charles Berry, the bulk storage facility manager, bulk storage receives 15 truck loads of JP-8 daily and they supply the filtering process that is required before the fuel can be used. 

The fuel that is received is pumped through a filter before it reaches storage, he said. It is filtered again before the additive to make sure JP-8+100 is added, put on the refuel truck, and filtered a third time by the truck before it reaches an aircraft, he said. 

Mr. Berry said computers run most of the process, but people still have to hook the trucks to the pipe system and occasionally they have to inspect the tanks and take readings manually.