Monday, January 02, 2006
posted 1/02/2006 09:44:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Just got done with my first workday on PM pits, had a pretty good time! Our first LC-130s had a small internal fuel leak right off the bat when Jody was showing me the ropes. She was taking care of that right about that time we had another skier (short for LC-130) come on deck for fueling. So I basically fell headfirst into fueling planes by myself for the first time (had done each individual part before, just hadn't done everything solo,) which wasn't all that bad.

It was eventually determined that the leak today was caused by a bit of operator error. Sounds like someone (on the plane crew) left a vent valve in the plane open or something along those lines. No big deal this time since there was only a little bit of fuel that came out so Jody could just shovel the little bit of contaminated snow into a bucket. It's pretty nice that snow acts like a sponge for aviation fuel so that we can easily clean up little spills like that one.

Last Friday however, there was a rather significant fuel spill out of an LC-130. Sounds like this one was operator error as well (again on the plane crew's part,) but on a slightly different magnitude. As a plane was getting fueled last Friday, there was suddenly a shimmering waterfall (slight exaggeration maybe) of AN-8 showering down out of one of the wings of Skier 96 (we refer to the skiers by the last two digits of their tail number.) So, the pit crew (Jody and Matt) immediately shut off the fuel and grabbed an open-top drum. The drum was placed under the stream, where it quickly started filling up. Very fortunately, Scharen (the awesome fuels truck) had been parked at the fuel pits, so they were able to drive it over to the drum and start sucking fuel out of the drum as it was being filled by the fuel spilling from the plane. Had Scharen not been there (or had Jody and Matt not saved the day [again],) several hundred more gallons of fuel would have hit the ground than the estimated 200 that did. The spill response crew ended up digging up an awful lot of contaminated snow on that one!

Of course, these kind of things aren't commonplace down here, just seems like we've had a bit of bad luck over the last few days. Think a lot of it is due to the fact that we've got a couple new air crews in town, so they're still learning how things work (or don't) down here. On my second skier for instance, the ANG (Air National Guard - the people who fly the planes and hook the nozzle to the plane, we do everything upstream from that) fuel guy told me to start pumping at low speed, which I did. He then kept motioning for me to start the pumps for some reason, even though I double checked everything and gave him a thumbs up. So, after he motioned again for me to start, I checked the fuel meter which was sitting still on 2 gallons. Eventually we established that I was in fact pumping and that he hadn't actually hooked the nozzle all the way into the plane and flipped the 'on' latch. Granted, we do have a bit of a different fuel system than these guys are used to, so he might have been a bit frazzled from that (and last weekend,) but I'm pretty sure military single point aviation nozzles are standardized....

Anyways, ended up fueling two skiers and two twin otters in rapid succession by myself, and Jody's skier eventually took off.

It is what it is.

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