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Maintenance in the tank: Aircraft Fuels Systems

  • Published
  • By Airman First Class Harry Brexel
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
There are many dangerous jobs when it comes to keeping planes in the air. Being an aircraft fuel systems specialist is no exception.

As part of their job, fuels system repair Airmen here immerse themselves in highly flammable fuel tanks to keep C-130s flying.

"We diagnose malfunctions, seal, change and maintain components inside the fuel tanks," said Staff Sgt. Steven Dailey, a 19th Airlift Wing Maintenance Squadron fuel systems repair technician.

The team of more than 80 enlisted Airmen works three shifts around the clock to get the job done.

Most C-130s on base have seen the inside of a fuels system repair hangar.

"We mostly work on 19th AW C-130s, but we often work on 314th planes, and we occasionally help the Arkansas Air Guard," Dailey said.

The 19th AW is transitioning to fly more C-130J's than C-130H's.

"The change hasn't affected our readiness," said Dailey. "There tends to be more leaks in the older planes, so if anything it makes our job easier. We can diagnose the newer planes with a computer instead of the old fashioned way."

Though there have been some changes for the better, keeping aircraft fuels systems in shape still has its challenges.

"All Airmen have to suit up before they crawl into one of the wings, which is where the fuel tanks are held," Dailey said.

No cell phones, keys or any unauthorized electronic devices are allowed in the hangars.
"We are required to wear respirators and measure the quality of the air to ensure that we can enter the planes safely," said Dailey. "If we're not careful a small spark could ignite the fuel cell."

The Airmen must squeeze themselves into holes that are less than two feet in circumference.

"It's not an easy job, but it is vital that these planes have clean fuel," said Tech. Sgt. Darel Somer, the 19th MXS fuel systems shift supervisor.

An average of four C-130s is worked on each week, but that number varies as some planes require a week of work and others only a few hours.

Currently, a new hangar is being built across from one of the current fuel systems specialist hangar. The current hangar where the Airmen work is more than 50 years old.

Aircraft fuels systems Airmen have a sense of pride and accomplishment in what they do.

"I enjoy doing my job and seeing the aircraft taking off," said Somer.