Corporate fuel farm works for Eastman

 - January 31, 2007, 6:11 AM

A private fuel farm isn’t right for every operator, but it has worked out well for the flight department at Eastman Chemical, Blountville, Tenn., based at Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TRI). The company has had a flight department since 1957 (flying a DC-3) and now operates a pair of Gulfstream IIs and a GIV-SP. In 1997 Eastman replaced an underground fuel farm with its current above-ground facility, which includes a pair of 15,000-gallon tanks. Fully compliant with safety and environmental standards, the fuel farm has enough containment to hold the contents of either tank, with a loading pad containment system that can accommodate the contents of any one bay of the fuel truck.

Eastman buys its preblended jet-A from Phillips 66 at a rate of about 8,000 gallons per week. The company developed its unique fuel-handling program after initial training from Phillips. Eastman chief of maintenance Lonnie Phillips said the program is unusual in that it covers all the regulations in FAR 139.321 and Advisory Circulars 150-5230 and 34. “Every company might have something like this,” said Eastman’s Phillips, “but ours is customized to our particular fuel farm.”

Eastman changes the fuel farm filters every 18 months or two years, and attributes the clean operation of the system at least partly to the Phillips fuel, which includes its diethylene glycol monomethyl ether (Di-EGME) additive preblended by an atomizer at the terminal before transport and delivery to Eastman. Besides providing additional margin of safety against fuel icing (should the aircraft’s fuel heaters fail in flight) the additive has properties that fight the growth of living microbes that could cause sludge to form in the aircraft’s fuel system, and in the fuel farm.

Charles Thomas, department manager for Eastern Aviation (the flight department for Eastern Chemical), said, “We used to buy untreated fuel on the open market at bottom-dollar price. Our technicians mixed Biobor and Prist into the fuel, though they weren’t really comfortable handling the additives.” Thomas attributes thousands of dollars in annual maintenance savings to the antimicrobial properties of Di-EGME. The Gulfstreams’ wet wings are inspected every 24 months and the low-pressure filters in the fuel systems are checked at 150-hour intervals. “We could extend those inspections to 300 hours,” said Eastman’s Phillips.

Understanding the operation of the fuel farm as well as they do makes the Eastman pilots particular about FBOs from which they buy fuel on the road. Thomas said, “We check the truck sump to make sure that it’s clear. Our pilots watch the hookup and also recheck that the line personnel have put the cap back on correctly and that they’ve closed the door after refueling.