Fuel is key to mission success, keeps pilot training going

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

There are many things that get pilots into the air, from the maintainers who fix the planes, to the personnel who keep their records, and to the medical group that clears them to fly -- but without any fuel, no aircraft would be able to lift off the runway.

 The 14th Logistics Readiness Squadron Fuels Management Flight is responsible for delivering clean, dry fuel and liquid oxygen to 14th Flying Training Wing and transient aircraft.

 “We do everything from receiving the fuel, to storing it and transferring fuel through pipelines to fill stands that we fill our 6,000-gallon R-11 refueling units with,” said Joe Kelly, 14th LRS fuels terminal manager.

 Before any of the fuel is received by any aircraft, the fuel is tested to make sure it is in regulation for the aircraft.

 “The fuel is tested for solids and some additives, the fuel system icing inhibitor, and the antistatic agent,” Kelly said. “It’s also tested where it’s filtered before it’s issued to the aircraft, and that’s to remove any leftover sediment or water that’s in the fuel.”

 In 2015 the fuel shop had the most fuel transactions out of any Air Force base, and continue to make around 300 transactions a day.

 “We have a fleet of 17 trucks and at any point in time there could be six or seven trucks moving fuel,” Kelly said. “We issue about 60,000 gallons a day with that fleet.”

 With the duty to continuously keep training aircraft ready to fly, the work tempo is extremely high; Sherry Voncee’, 14th LRS fuels controller, helps keep all the movement of fuel under control.

 “I am in control of all aspects of POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants flight), and I need to know who’s going in and out of storage,” Voncee’ said. “I am basically keeping track and dispatching them to control the movement of the fuel.”

 It’s an extremely fast-paced job. With thousands of sorties a year, the R-11s must be dispatched and refueling aircraft within eight minutes of the Mission and Operation Control Center notifying the fuels flight.

 “It’s a busy job, it really is,” Voncee’ said.

 As the student pilots lean on the 14th LRS Fuels Management Flight for support, their fingerprints will be among many other BLAZE team members’ prints on the students’ backs.