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Deployed aircraft maintainers diagnose, repair aircraft

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Phillip Butterfield
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
When a person has a stomachache or can't hold any food down in their bellies, they go to a medical provider for diagnosis and cure.

When aircraft have similar problems, such as not transferring fuel to an engine or leaking after being filled, the aircraft is towed to the 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron's Fuels Shop for diagnosis and repair.

"The Fuel Shop's mission is to repair all discrepancies on F-16 Fighting Falcons and C-130 Hercules aircraft flown here," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Hook, 332 EMXS Fuels Shop chief.

Fuel systems technicians work on a variety of components common to both airframes fuel manifolds, valves, pumps and wire harnesses. Each type of aircraft has their own nuances. Although both aircraft are similar, one of the main differences is size of the aircraft.

"On the C-130, when I need to do maintenance, I can climb into the wing tank," said Senior Airmen Terrance Walton, 332 EMXS aircraft fuel systems technician, a native of Cuthbert, Ga., deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. "The F-16 is a little too small to be able to do that with."

Another difference between the airframes is the emergency power unit used when the engine, hydraulic or electrical system fails. The C-130 uses a gas driven auxiliary-power unit, and the F-16 uses an emergency-power unit that utilizes an extremely volatile chemical called Hydrazine.

Should a ground mishap involve hydrazine, F-16 fuels systems technicians respond to the scene.

"Hydrazine response is quite the event," said Senior Airman Nathaniel Sutliffe, 332 EMXS aircraft fuel systems technician. "After receiving the call we need to immediately respond. We have to approach the spill from downwind, because it's not just the liquid that is dangerous, the vapors are as well."

With the myriad of different airframes and complexities of their fuel systems, fuels Airmen need to be flexible troubleshooters; because a slow-to-feed problem may be fixed one way today and another tomorrow.

"I really enjoy the dynamics of working with fuels," said Airman Sutliffe, a native of Hudson, N.H., deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. "Usually, you will not find the same solution to the same problem, and anything can cause a plane's fuel system to not work right. Sometimes, I go home grumbling to myself, but most of the time I go home feeling good about what I do."