Construction continues on new KC-135 aircraft fuel hydrant system at Niagara

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kelsey Martinez
  • 914th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

In July of 2022, Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station began construction of the 914th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker Aircraft Fuel Hydrant System. The project is scheduled to be completed in December 2023 and will serve Niagara well into the future.

The purpose of the project is to provide a workable fueling solution for the KC-135 mission at NFARS, which includes providing a hydrant fueling system with sufficient fuel storage, as well as the demolition and removal of existing fueling infrastructure that are no longer functional or necessary.

“We are taking the previously owned West POL (petroleum, oil, and lubricant) yard and adding a 420,000-gallon tank to store fuel on site for the planes,” said Matthew Rua, Project Engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. “After that we will replace all the underground piping from the West POL yard out to the six hydrant pits on the flightline.”

Two years ago, Rua was assigned to the project to provide on-site Q&A for jobs of the New York District, along with representing the Army Corps. His role is to ensure safety standards and construction are in compliance with NYSDEC and the base environment.

“Two operating tanks will also be repaired, along with building a new POL Lab," said Rua. “These operational repairs will maintain and improve quality through lab testing, increase efficiency, and decrease manpower to save time and money.”

The 914th Logistics Readiness Squadron is a conglomeration of many things comprised of six squadrons and two directories including logistics, engineering, security, communications, aerial port based civil engineering, and contracting support. Petroleum, oil, and lubricant (POL) is one of the many Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC’s) assigned to the squadron.

“Two crucial aspects of the job are to inspect all fuel for purity and ensure the required quantity is met for each flight,” said Col. Christopher Witter, former 914th Mission Support Group commander. “Within the 914 LRS, POL airmen actually go out, get the fuel, ensure it is pure, and move it from the holding facility to the aircraft in a timely manner.”

The lack of suitable fueling infrastructure requires the KC-135 aircraft to be re-fueled by individual refueling trucks that is both time and labor intensive, which adversely impacts the efficiency and capability of the mission.

“When we launch aircraft, we aren’t just doing it for training, there is usually a receiver out there more than likely already in the air expecting to connect with an aircraft that has fuel for them,” said Witter. “That requires a lot of fuel and as of now, our system is outdated and requires an alternative solution to increase efficiency.”

The fuel hydrant system was designed to ameliorate and decrease the amount of movement on the airfield. Instead of using trucks to transport the fuel, they can simply pump straight from the hydrant which will cut the refueling time in half.

“Fuel pits, located where the aircraft is parked, will come within feet of the aircraft and then there’s just a small tote apparatus that hooks from that into the aircraft,” Witter explained. “So, you’ve taken out the moving part that trucks: if the truck breaks down, training the drivers etc., removing those components decreases the amount of people you need to do the job to just a few.”

Although the availability of POL job slots will decrease after the completion of the fuel hydrant system, airmen will still be needed.

“We will still be in need of trained POL airmen for lab testing fuel quality,” he said. “They are all UTC assigned, and when deployed, there are so few areas downrange that have a pipeline system, that the use of trucks to transport fuel will be implemented.”

If the interest of training in the Air Force for a job that directly correlates to civilian aviation is for you, contact an Air Force Reserve Recruiter at 716-236-2207 to schedule a visit and see first-hand the new POL facilities that are helping to bring Niagara into the future.