Airman 1st Class Benjamin Raughton
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE — Even in perfect condition, the mighty B-52H Stratofortress is nothing more than a static display suitable for tourist photo ops without a precious resource that only the Water and Fuels Systems Maintenance Flight can sustain.
Without filtered, dry fuel, aircraft are permanently grounded.
Water and Fuels Systems Maintenance, part of the 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron, is a combination of active duty, reserve and civilian team members.
“Our mission is to maintain all of the base’s fuel facilities,” said William Koff, Liquid Fuels Section foreman. “If we didn’t do this, we wouldn’t fly airplanes, we wouldn’t fuel any cruise missiles, we wouldn’t drive any of the vehicle fleet, and we wouldn’t be able to start any emergency generators.”
The impact on the Barksdale mission if local fuel systems weren’t properly maintained would be severe.
“All base operations would eventually come to a grinding halt,” Koff said.
To keep operations running smoothly, fuel equipment is carefully calibrated by a monitored computer and fuel flows through the infrastructure, passing through a series of valves and filters before its final destination in storage tanks.
This final product is known as dry fuel, because it has been filtered to the molecular level and contains no microns of water.
“Zero water,” Koff said. “Not one drop. We’re ensuring the system provides and guarantees clean, dry fuel for aircraft.”
Airmen from the 307th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers gain valuable experience from fuels maintenance.
Preventative maintenance is an ongoing process that must be executed one step at a time.
“We [filter] everything the right way to make the right product,” said Master Sgt. Willie Bryant, 307th REDHORSE NCO in charge of water and fuels system maintenance. “This [process] is important to the mission. We don’t take shortcuts.”
“There are always a set of eyes on everything we do,” Koff said. “[There are] daily, weekly, quarterly inspections on valves and emergency measures.”
The refined fuel becomes the blood that brings the aircraft to life, but the fuels maintenance team’s job is not done. Even fueling an aircraft requires a level of precision.
“The system of filters and valves make sure the fuel is pumped into the aircraft at the appropriate pressure,” Koff said. “The wing-tank seals may burst if the fuel pressure and flow rate is too high.”
With dedicated teamwork and constant vigilance, the fuels maintenance flight provides mission continuity so the jets can fly and ensure that pilots are not pedestrians.