Refueling in general has a lot of safety concerns. A lot of people don’t realize how much goes into Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL) handling, let alone draw the conclusion that the safety rules in the Army should also apply at their common gas station. I was fortunate enough to be a fueler in an aviation unit, which was a lot of fun and a unique experience. The safety principles apply everywhere, and in every type of unit, but aviation has a few different circumstances that everyone has to be aware of.
1. You need to make sure to do your daily and monthly fuel tests. I am referring to the aquaglo and millipore tests. The aquaglo should be done every day that you plan to refuel aircraft. You can run fuel out of one HEMTT for ground and air vehicles, but if your plan involves aviation refueling then this test must be done. It measures the ppm of water in the fuel. If it is over 10, then the fuel is considered unsafe. The millipore is supposed to be done every month and measures the sedment in the fuel.
2. Make sure you follow all safety checklists provided by the safety officer when setting up your fuel point. This is generally more important if you plan to do a ‘hot’ refuel (aircraft blades are still turning), but there is a comprehensive checklist you will have. It is easy to follow and it tells you exactly what you need to have, and where it should be. The safety officer will come check your work, and if you follow the checklist, they shouldn’t have any issues.
3. Have an escape route. Hot refueling can be dangerous in certain conditions. Make sure that your HEMTT is positioned to get away quickly in the event of a fire.
4. Have all appropriate PPE! This one is a no brainer, but make sure you are wearing the appropriate clothing, and have goggles and gloves made from appropriate materials. Ensure the grounding rods are correct and the fire extinguishers are in the right place.
5. Take all commands from the crew chief. When the crew chief is off the aircraft, THEY are in charge, not you! It may be your fuel point, and they should listen to you in regards to fuel safety, but they are in charge of that aircraft! Don’t just run up to it and start fueling. Pay attention and listen. That rule actually applies when you are going to be a passenger, or anything else.
Bottom Line: Aviation refueling is fun and rewarding. The pilots appreciate having competent refuelers that are proud of their job, and that can do it efficiently and safely.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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