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POL fuels the mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Keenan Berry
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL) flight works around the clock to fuel the diverse missions of Whiteman Air Force Base. With timeliness and proficiency, they are able to maintain fueling expectations for operational purposes. 

The POL flight's mission is to ensure aircraft, vehicles and equipment receive fuel with a minimal amount of water and contains no contaminants.

The flight consists of multiple sections to include the fuels management team and fuels information service center (FISC).

The fuels management team is comprised of the flight superintendent and flight commander. They are responsible for all flight operations. The superintendent is the responsible officer who is charged with the safe handling of Defense Logistics Agency Energy (DLA Energy) fuel. This pertains to signing the account, ensuring all fuel is accounted for and all fuel transactions are processed.

"Our mission operates 24/7, 365 days," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Beau Piper, a 509th LRS fuels operations section chief. "We ensure there are no contaminants and minimal water within the fuel."

The types of fuel the POL flight provides are jet A, diesel and gasoline. Jet A fuel is used for the B-2 Spirit aircraft. Plus-100 is an additive used to make the fuel burn at a higher temperature reducing carbon build up, thereby increasing thermal stability and productivity. The plus-100 is an additive that is injected into the fuel for the T-38 Talon and A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Piper said Jet A is the life blood of the aircraft meaning "bombs don't drop if the planes don't fly." Diesel fuel is used for vehicles and generators such as fire trucks, fuel trucks, tugs, snow removal equipment and emergency backup generators. All heavy equipment is diesel powered. Gasoline is used for more standard government owned vehicles.

When aircraft land, the POL flight is called upon to distribute fuel. The fueling process varies by aircraft, which can be a time-consuming endeavor. However, the B-2 has a different fueling regimen.

"It is an airframe unlike any other," said Piper. "This also means it is unique when it comes to refueling because most aircraft refuel when they land. The B-2 refuels prior to taking off, and where they refuel within their checklist varies upon maintenance actions occurring on the aircraft. This makes it difficult to tell when they want fuel, making it difficult to plan for them."

In addition, the POL flight is always prepared to refuel two B-2s at a time. To do this, they rely on a type 5 hydrant system.

"The type 5 hydrant system is an underground system which is the primary means of refueling this aircraft," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Flamm, 509th LRS fuels  service center operator. "There are four 400,000 gallon fuel tanks which are a part of our pump houses. The tanks contain the fuel and the pump houses pressurize the system and distribute fuel to the stands, docks and hardstands. As an aircraft needs fuel, the crew chiefs and our members will set up the pantograph and begin the fueling process."

When the flight members squeeze the control switch, it will relieve the pressure within the system; the pump house senses the drop in pressure and automatically turns on the pump to activate fuel flow. As more aircraft are refueling, it detects the decrease in pressure and distributes more fuel. Once the aircraft is full, the pump house senses an increase in pressure and turns the pumps off.

FISC involves administrative type operations such as the fuels service center. The center is the focal point of the flight; no fuel moves without them knowing about it. They track and dispatch all fuels operations, and handle the accounting and process transactions each day.

"The fuel is owned by DLA Energy and we are there caretakers," said Piper. "We are charged to distribute that fuel for them."

For the Airmen of the fuels management team, a key requirement for maintaining shop morale is camaraderie.

"Every day is an interesting day in the fuel management shop," Flamm said. "I enjoy working with these guys. This shop is an extremely tight-knit family and there's no other shop like it."