MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho — “Things aren’t made the way they used to be” is a sentiment often tossed around when a new car or appliance breaks down.
Even with all the new inventions and integrated technology, there’s something to be said about the simplicity of an original design. Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, members are learning this lesson firsthand.
Airmen from the 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron, also known as Gunfighters, are the first in the Air Force to perform hot-pit refueling on F-35 Lightning IIs with a Type 1 hydrant system from the 1950s and hose cart from the 1970s.
A hot-pit is when a plane lands, refuels then takes off again without turning off the engine, explains Senior Airman Christian Cook, 366th LRS fuels operator. The typical refueling procedure consists of landing, turning off the engine and a laundry list of to-do’s.
Traditional refueling takes upward of two hours while the hot-pit gold standard takes 13 minutes, which translates to huge monetary saving.
During hot-pits, Gunfighters initially used eight R-11 refueling trucks that hold 6,000 gallons of fuel each. One R-11 is only capable of refueling two jets and requires a new truck to come out with additional fuel to meet the demands of the mission, said Tech. Sgt. Zachary J. Kiniry, 366th LRS fuels service center noncommissioned officer in charge.
“This method is not time-efficient, ties up 50 percent of the base’s R-11s and associated personnel and creates traffic on an active flight line that could pose a safety hazard,” Kiniry said.
His team realized that more moving parts was not the answer, Kiniry said. With a new, simplified approach they found a resourceful solution in using older-generation equipment to better complete the mission.
Now, Gunfighters use a Type 1 hydrant system from the 1950s and hose carts from the 1970s directly connected to 500,000 gallon tanks, allowing Gunfighters to virtually endlessly refuel F-35s.
“Our old equipment is persisting and performing up to the hot-pits gold standard of 13 minute turnarounds,” Kiniry said.
With this process, Gunfighters have the capability to run hot-pits 24/7, saving 15 minutes between every other F-35 that was previously needed to set up a new R11.
“We have eliminated safety concerns from the heavy traffic on the flight line and reallocated eight R11s with their associated personnel to perform the rest of the mission outside of hot-pits,” Cooks said.
Gunfighters are continuing their legacy of excellence and are an example how flexibility is the key to air power.
“Mountain Home Air Force Base is proving that we can still fuel F-35 aircraft right off the production line with some of the oldest equipment at unheard of turnaround times,” Kiniry said.
“We have learned through continual improvement, experimentation and innovation how to enhance readiness and keep airmen safe, regardless of what tools we are given.”