Maintaining the aircraft’s heartbeat

  • Published
  • By Airman Tristan D. Viglianco
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

If fuel acts as the lifeblood for aircraft, then the veins and arteries would be the fuel systems. These components are essential in keeping the 9th Reconnaissance Wing’s aircraft up in the air and capable of completing their mission.

Behind the maintenance of the fuel components on the RQ-4 Global Hawk and U-2 Dragon Lady is a shop known as aircraft fuel systems.

“In fuel systems we do everything from fuel tanks to the engine components,” Staff Sgt. Kirk Smith, 9th Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems craftsman. “We repair and replace whatever we need to.”

The shop works closely with crew chiefs to fix any potential problems which may arise.

“When the aircraft come down and the crew chiefs see a fuel leak or issue with one of our components they’ll call us out to evaluate the leak or troubleshoot the issue,” said Senior Airman Steven Benton, 9th MXS aircraft fuels systems technician.

Their extensive knowledge of the aircraft they work on allows them to easily troubleshoot and pinpoint the problem so they can save time and fix it as soon as possible.

“Knowing the aircraft and how our parts work allows us to troubleshoot different possibilities and narrow it down to the exact problem,” said Benton. “For instance, a boost pump’s pressure read out is supposed to be 10 to 20 PSI.”

Aside from all of the maintenance done in response to malfunctions, perhaps one of the most important aspects of their jobs is the work they do with the hydrazine and the Emergency Start System.

“The ESS is a one-time chance to restart the engine if something goes wrong during flight,” said Smith. “In order to work on it, we must be certified to work with hydrazine.”

With how crucial and potentially lifesaving their job is, the Airmen from aircraft fuels systems take it very seriously.

“As a noncommissioned officer I need to ensure all of the work done on the aircraft is on par,” said Smith. “Precision is a must when working on aircraft and the standards are high.”