By Clark Pierce
The Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) fuels team provides direct support to numerous Navy airframes including: P-8A Poseidon; P-3C Orion; C-130T Hercules; C-40A Clipper; T-45A Goshawk; E-2 Hawkeye; and the MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.
"With completion of the new NAS Jax airfield runway in 2016, along with the Navy's transition to the P-8A Poseidon aircraft -- we're issuing a greater volume of fuel to aircraft for training, as well as operational and transient flights," said Fleet Logistics Center Jacksonville (FLCJ) Fuels Operations Specialist Mike Darling.
"Depending on its training mission, a Navy P-8A Poseidon takes off from NAS Jax with a typical fuel load of over 6,000 gallons of JP-5 aviation fuel compared to the P-3C Orion's 4,500 gallons," explained Darling.
"The Poseidon design is based on the commercial Boeing 737-800 with modifications and mission-specific systems equating to a larger, heavier aircraft that can top off its tanks at about 10,000 gallons of aviation fuel," said Darling. "That means the station and tenant commands incur more refueling transactions -- but the Defense Logistical Agency's fueling contractor United Paradyne/Maytag Aircraft Corporation personnel handle the increase in operational tempo flight demands."
He pointed out statistics concerning requests for fuel services since the main runway reopened in July 2016 to today. The NAS Jax Fuel Facility conducted more than 10,766 fueling evolutions delivering almost 19 million (18,842,646) gallons of JP-5 fuel. In direct support of the warfighter mission requirements, requests for fuel service were dispatched with an average response time of 10 minutes.
Darling mentioned, "The fuel farm is currently manned by a mixture of civil service, military and United Paradyne/Maytag Aircraft Corporation contractor personnel -- and together they represent more than 575 years of fuel related experience."
As aviation fuel is received from commercial carriers in tank trucks carrying as much as 8,000 gallons of fuel, there can be as many as 10 to 30 trucks received daily off-loading into any one of the facilities' three 650,000 gallon bulk storage tanks. Here each step of the fuel process is closely choreographed, from the incoming shipments of fuel to the fueling and defueling of aircraft, it's a non-stop, precise process happening 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As fuel shipments are received, the fuel is tested.
"At a minimum the fuel is processed through a filtration system on three separate occasions where sediment and other impurities are removed prior to being issued," said Darling. "Our main goal is to deliver clean, dry and bright fuel because the quality of the fuel to our customers is critical to mission success."
The effectiveness of any complex operation is dependent on a well-structured organization with qualified and knowledgeable supervision. Among other things, Darling and FLCJ Facility Manager Alan Williams are quality assurance evaluators who keep watch to ensure compliance with quality, safety, contract compliance and environmental standards for fuel delivered to NAS Jax and its flight line.
"We follow all local, state, federal and DoD policies to make sure squadron activities receive fuel in accordance with applicable military standards," said Darling.
A key component to the organization is the quality assurance division consisting of aviation boatswain's mates fuels better known as fuelies, grapes or the guys in the purple shirts. "These highly skilled professionals provide surveillance of the facility's petroleum oil lubricant laboratory operations, conduct contract compliance inspections and ensure 100 percent compliance with all regulatory standards," said Darling.
FLCJ provides two pantograph systems for the ground "hot pit" refueling of fixed and rotary wing military aircraft.
All the hard work and dedication of the fuel farm personnel is evident each time you hear the roar of an aircraft engine racing down the runway, another aircraft airborne on its way to accomplish its mission objective -- "One Fight, One Team."