Selfridge Records Another A-10 Operational Milestone

  • Published
  • By By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
With two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines turning, three Airmen worked quickly and efficiently together to refuel an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, allowing that aircraft to be ready to quickly return to the sky.

Aug. 4 marked another milestone in A-10 aircraft operations at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, as Selfridge personnel conducted their first "hot refuel" of an A-10, an operation designed to minimize the time the aircraft has to spend on the ground after completing a mission, allowing the aircraft to fly another mission with minimal delay.

"The normal goal is to shoot for about a 6-7 minute fueling operation," said Senior Master Sgt. Aaron Doty, a quality assurance manager with the 127th Maintenance Group. "Today we are working to get everyone certified."

During the operation, an A-10 landed at Selfridge and taxied to the "hot pit" - an area on the tarmac at Selfridge that was designated for the hot refuel operation. As a crew from the base fire department watched from a few hundred feet away, the A-10 left its engines running as a crew chief connected the fueling hose to deliver more than 1,200 gallons of JP-8 jet fuel to the aircraft. Typically, the aircraft's engines would not be running and would be allowed to cool prior to the refueling.

"I think the biggest thing is just being aware of everything that is happening around you," said Technical Sgt. Ricardo Colon, the crew chief on the first hot refuel. "You have to have your eyes open and be listening to what your teammates say."

In a typical refueling situation, the refueling unit operator controls a "dead man" switch, which automatically stops the flow of fuel moving from the fuel truck to the aircraft. During a hot refuel, a second crew chief holds the switch, as the crew chief is in radio communication with the pilot in the aircraft. Having the second crew chief hold the dead man switch allows for a quicker response if either the pilot or the crew chief detects a problem.

Colon said perhaps the biggest safety concern during the hot refuel is static electricity buildup. To prevent a static electricity discharge, ground wires are connected from the aircraft to a ground in the tarmac, the fuel truck is connected to a ground and the truck and aircraft are connected. The three-point grounding system is used during all Air Force refueling operations.

While the Aug. 4 operation at Selfridge marked the first time local crews performed a hot refuel of an A-10, local crews had performed numerous such operations in years past on previous aircraft assigned to the base, most recently the F-16 Falcon. As the air intakes on the A-10's two engines are located above the wings on the aircraft, compared to the F-16's air intake below the front fuselage, the degree of danger of a foreign object being sucked into the intake was lower on the A-10. Still, all the Airmen who participated in or observed the hot refuel operation performed a "FOD Walk" in the area of the hot pit, looking for any foreign objects which could get sucked into and damage an aircraft engine.

The 127th Wing at Selfridge began flying A-10 aircraft at the beginning of 2009, after almost 20 years of flying F-16s. In addition to the A-10, which is used primarily for close air support of ground forces, the 127th Wing also flies KC-135 Stratotanker refuelers from Selfridge.