Roving Sands Supported at MAF
Unit Involved: 912th Air Refueling Squadron
Aircraft Involved: 8 KC-135 tankers
Mission: Supporting flight operations at White Sands during the Roving Sands exercise
Avion's Jet Fuel Farm: 5 - 25,000 gallon tanks and one 10,000 gallon tank for a total of 135,000 gallon capacity. This farm has 3 fueling stands which deliver approximately 250 gpm each
Avion's trucks: 2 - 5,000 gallon and 2 - 3,000 gallon refuelers, average delivery rate of 250 gpm
To cut costs, the Air Force decided to out-source the aircraft refueling needs for a commitment made by the 912th ARS, of the 319 ARW from Grand Forks Air Force Base, Grand Forks, North Dakota. Notice that Avion was to be doing all of the fueling arrived only 2 weeks before arrival. Avion and its predecessors have over 20 years experience serving the needs of the U.S. military and have delivered significant amounts of fuel into very large aircraft in short periods of time. Avion is also accustomed to rapid response required by the airline industry - such as Southwest Airlines' legendary 15-minute turn. However, Avion has never had the occasion to serve a full exercise directly. Previous detachments had always brought in Air Force R-9 trucks and fueling personnel. This presented a significant challenge to Avion with anticipated needs of 120,000 gallons or more needed in short spans and for 4 days straight. Expected total flowage was estimated to be 550,000 gallons total. Valid questions were raised on whether Avion could perform such a heavy task for the Air Force. Avion studied the challenge and committed to the operation, promising in writing that Avion could refuel 1 or 2 Aircraft in 3 to 4 hours total or 3 or 4 Aircraft in 7 to 8 hours total.
Using Avion's existing intoplane contract, the Air Force did not need to bring in costly refueling trucks, bladders, personnel or other associated equipment required to support the operation. This presented significant savings in transportation and support costs to the unit. This also presented Avion with its greatest fueling challenge ever. Working through Exxon Company USA, Avion lined up two nearby refineries to handle the load. Shell's refinery 10 miles away in Odessa committed to delivering the entire amount of Jet-A fuel. As a backup, the Fina refinery 50 miles away in Big Spring was alerted to stand by in case Shell had any interruption in supply. Avion's DFSC contract is for Jet-A w/FSII and Avion receives straight Jet-A from the refineries. Avion owns 3 refinery rack-sized Hammonds injectors on the fuel farm to properly inject the FSII into the stream of jet fuel as it is being loaded into the refueling truck. These injectors, the exact same model used at refineries worldwide, are calibrated using a precision spectrometer to an exact 0.10 ppm as specified in Mil Std 1548c. Further, regular samples are tested by the DOD and Exxon QC. All fuel used at Midland International Airport is delivered via transport truck in 7,500 gallons quantities. United Petroleum Transport (UPT) assigned two trucks and drivers on a 24-hour basis to handle Avion's needs. Mission Transport was alerted to backup status in case there was any interruption in deliveries by UPT. To add capacity on the flight line, Avion secured one extra 3,000 gallon refueler on loan from Exxon for the detachment. This truck turned out to have a mechanical problem in its PTO system and failed the first night. It also turned out that this extra refueler was not needed after all. All of Avion's own trucks and fuel systems are under regular preventative maintenance programs but received extra mechanical attention before the detachment. Avion also has a set of air stairs and recently obtained a surplus widebody towing vehicle which originally saw service moving heavy aircraft for American Airlines. These items were also made ready for the exercise.
The 912th's missions were flown in the afternoon and evening hours. The first flight of 4 tankers would depart in mid-afternoon, returning around 18:00 to 19:00 local, and the second flight departed around 20:00, returning around 00:30 to 01:00 the next morning. Avion scheduled two shifts of 4 personnel assigned to the fuel trucks and one man to the fuel farm to receive loads of fuel. All fuel trucks and the fuel farm were completely full by late afternoon each day. By having a number of separate fuel tanks, Avion was able to receive and properly settle loads of fuel from the refinery on one end while delivering fuel to trucks on the other end. Within minutes of their return in the early evening hours, Avion would immediately begin fueling the first set of aircraft. Trucks and personnel were standing by nearby and the instant the Air Force crew chiefs were ready to begin (usually just a few minutes after arrival), Avion was moving. Two airplanes at a time were serviced as Avion sent two trucks to each airplane and both trucks were positioned at the aircraft. The instant one truck ran empty, it was unhooked and the second truck hooked up and began pumping. The first truck was dispatched to the fuel farm to be refilled and then returned. All aircraft for all missions were given a standing 145,000 pound fuel order, so Avion personnel knew in advance the requirements at hand. Since the refueling all occurred at night, Avion was able to assign its entire fleet of vehicles to the task. Avion pumped 115,000 gallons the first full night. While Avion promised in writing a 7 to 8 hour turn on 4 airplanes, the actual result was significantly better. On the first try, Avion delivered 55,000 gallons into 4 tankers in 3 hours 15 minutes. Refueling the first wave began around 18:45 and was completed by 22:00 and the shift of Avion line technicians went home. At 01:00, a fresh shift of line techs arrived and were waiting on the second wave of tankers. This time it took 3 hours and 20 minutes - still half our promised delivery time. The next several nights went very smoothly on the ground while the tankers dealt with thunderstorms over the practice area in the air. Some of the sorties were shortened or even cancelled, reducing the demand on Avion's fueling operation.
Avion handily beat its promised delivery times. Avion said it could handle 8 airplanes in 14 to 16 hours total and then did the job in less than 7 hours. In fact, Avion delivered more fuel in less time than any of the previous Air Force fueling groups have ever done on this field. Total quantity delivered to the military was 404,656 gallons. Keep in mind that Avion continued its retail and airline fueling during this time and delivered another 150,000 gallons elsewhere on the field with time to spare. The fueling was completed well ahead of the expected schedule which the 912th was using and at no time was Avion a hindrance to the mission. There were no failures of Avion equipment whatsoever resulting in zero down time. The one truck which failed was a loaner vehicle brought in as an extra and had not had time to be fully inspected by Avion maintenance. Remember that Avion's tasking was on short notice and this extra truck arrived the day before the exercise began. Part of the success of this exercise was the fact that all of the fueling occurred at night. There was little else competing for Avion's attention and the company was able to devote its entire fueling system to the Air Force. Communication with the 912th also made matters run smoothly. Avion's crews knew what the Air Force expected and were prepared. When changes occurred, Avion easily adjusted to the changing needs. Proper preparation also helped greatly. Working together, Avion and Exxon made certain that there would be no interruption in supply. Several of the Crew Chiefs commented favorably on the organization and efficiency of the Avion crews.