By Kris Allegood, P.E.

Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station is home to Air Force Reserve Command’s 911th Airlift Wing, which provides tactical airlift support for equipment, aeromedical evacuation, and agile combat support. To accommodate a mission change from a C-130 airframe to the more versatile C-17 cargo aircraft, the base required a new Type III Hydrant Fueling System to be commissioned. Additional supporting work included expansions and upgrades to the apron, maintenance facilities, and fueling systems. Overall, the project will help dramatically enhance capacity to deliver troops and essential equipment where needed.

To expedite these changes required several additional infrastructure improvements, including a new pumphouse, the integration of updates within the existing system, an overhaul of the current controls system, and the addition of a new 5-Mbbl tank. With work beginning during the early stages of the coronavirus, restrictions put in place posed unique challenges. Delaying the commissioning until heightened health and safety protocols were lifted was not an option. So in May 2020, a team from Pond navigated the intense travel constraints, evolving procedures, and social distancing guidelines to carry out the crucial upgrades.


The team arrived on-site to demonstrate the full functionality of the system and associated infrastructure. During the week of commissioning, tests were performed concurrently to the new fueling system and the existing system to ensure optimal performance. While testing is critical to overall endurance, longevity, and reliability, the limited space inside the control rooms of each pumphouse made performing the examinations difficult with the additional requirement to maintain social distancing.

Testing was performed on modifications to the existing offload positions. An aboveground storage tank was then installed adjacent to the existing system. Modifications were made inside the existing pumphouse in order to tie the new and existing tanks together. A hydrant hose truck checkout station was installed outside of the upgraded pumphouse, and a hydrant loop with five hydrant outlet pits and an isolation valve pit were added to supply fuel to the C-17 aircraft on the apron. Fuel was delivered to the base from commercial trucks to perform system testing.

Flow tests were performed at all areas to confirm the equipment was functioning properly and that safety measures were correctly installed. The tests consisted of offloading commercial tanker trucks, loading refueler trucks, testing all pumps, filtering jet fuel on issue and receipt, and checking level alarms of existing and new aboveground storage tanks and the aboveground product recovery tank.

Additionally, the commissioning included verifying high level control valve closures, pipeline leak detection using the controls system, loading C-17 aircraft through a hydrant pit with an R-12 hydrant servicing vehicle, and defueling of an aircraft. The system was fully exercised and verified for operational use.

Beyond the project scope, the team overcame the risks and challenges associated with travel and dining. Maintaining social distancing in vehicles and airplanes required patience and conscientiousness from everyone. Accommodations for meals had to be considered since the base exchange was closed. Restaurants offsite only offered takeout, limiting the team to eating in vehicles or on the adjacent sidewalk.

Even at the hotel, the team was not permitted to gather on the premises. As a result, coordinating with coworkers was restricted to phone calls and texts.


After a week of external challenges, and with a short punch list remaining, Air Force Reserve Command   was ready to take control of the facility. The successful acceptance testing ensured the performance of the new system. The 911th Airlift Wing is now fully capable to support the refueling needs of the C-17 aircraft.

With strategic planning, effective management of health and safety guidelines, capable leadership, stakeholder involvement, and a little patience, the project remained on schedule despite the unique challenges of the pandemic.

Kris Allegood, P.E., is Vice President of Fueling, Pond;

[This article first published in the March-April 2021 issue of The Military Engineer.]