Fuels lab keeps mission moving forward

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78 ABW/PA
With a staff of just two, the Robins Fuels Lab is a small operation. But, its mission is vitally important. Very bad things could happen if Staff Sgt. David Kjeldgaard and Tim Craft weren't doing their jobs.

They are charged with performing regular checks on gasoline, diesel fuel and, most important, jet fuel, from the time it arrives at Robins to the time it is used.

On jet fuel, they do a variety of checks to make sure it is free of contaminants and has the correct level of additives to prevent certain problems. They do checks on fuel both in storage tanks and in pipelines which carry it to aircraft.

"We have enough tests to perform that by the time the fuel gets to the aircraft; there is never any doubt," Craft said.

They use the 116th Air Control Wing's fuels lab to perform the tests. One important test is for fuel system icing inhibitor. Through condensation, some water droplets will get in the fuel, and those droplets can freeze and clog fuel lines. The inhibitor attracts the droplets which, because water is heavier than fuel, fall to the bottom of the tank and are removed.

They add water to a fuel sample, then agitate the sample to simulate the conditions in a fuel tank, and test it to make sure there is enough additive to draw out the water.

Another important test is to check the "flashpoint," which is the temperature at which the fuel combusts. A low flashpoint could be very bad. They also check for static dissipater, which prevents static discharge from igniting fuel.

"As soon as the fuel hits the base, it's on us to make sure it is within specs," Kjeldgaard said. The Fuels Lab also performs checks on liquid oxygen used in aircraft.

The Fuels Lab is part of the Petroleum Oil and Lubricant Flight in the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron. The fact it rarely finds any problems would seem to lend itself toward getting lax, but the duo said that doesn't happen because they understand the importance of what they do.

"If we don't perform all the proper analysis and make sure the fuel meets specifications, obviously you've got the potential for the fuels to go bad, which means once planes get up to altitude there could be big problems," Craft said.