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Northern Lighting: 58th AMU aircraft fuel systems maintainers keep F-35s flying

  • Published
  • By Airman Christian Corley
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

Nomads with the 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, traveled to Volk Field ANGB, July 29 - Aug. 26, to conduct off-site training to avoid over 60% of seasonal lightning and hurricane delays in Florida.


This training could not be successful without the support of aircraft fuel systems maintainers ensuring fuel systems won’t malfunction during flight.


“We diagnose fuel problems, chase leaks and perform component swaps,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jace Christer, an aircraft fuel systems maintainer with the 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, 33rd FW, Eglin AFB. “We also maintain the inerting system, which keeps the fuel from catching fire in the tank.”


When it comes to flying, there are many procedures that need to be followed in order to maintain an aircraft’s fuel system and keep it mission ready.


“Anything that maintains fuel or needs fuel, we take care of,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joel Trujillo, an aircraft fuel systems shift lead with the 58th AMU, 33rd FW, Eglin AFB. “Our primary duty is going in-tank so we can take care of any cleaning, spills, contamination or damage.”


Aircraft fuel systems maintainers also assist pilots in diagnosing issues with the aircraft when any malfunctions occur. Most issues can be fixed on the spot, but other issues require the maintainers to physically go inside the fuel tank.


“We’ll start by setting up the fuel system area by pulling the panel up and purging the tank so breathing conditions are safe,” said Christer. “After we’re sure it’s safe, we get an entry permit which is a form we use to track all of our tank readings on, and change out any component that needs to be replaced.”


Maintaining the fuel systems of an aircraft isn’t a one-person job – it takes a team.


“We need a three-man team to go in-tank,” said Trujillo. “You have to trust the other people on your team to make sure that they're keeping an eye out for you while you’re in a confined space with fuel fumes. Your teammates have to recognize the signs and symptoms of over fatigue, passing out, hyperventilating or if you’re not getting enough air. So teamwork is very, very important to our job.”


While in Wisconsin, the 33rd FW is also participating in exercise Northern Lightning from Aug. 8-19, joint training exercise where Nomads are integrating with 4th- and 5th-generation assets from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air National Guard to enhance the Agile Combat Employment concept to build combat-capable Airmen. 


While the 33rd FW conducts training missions at Volk Field, it takes all personnel on the flightline to ensure the tactical-level training continues.


“We’re actually going outside of our [Air Force Specialty Code] and helping everybody; one team, one fight,” said Trujillo. “If the pilots don’t train, then that means we’re not doing our job – so right now, we’re helping everybody.”