Story and photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lex T. Wenberg

The Fuel Quality Control Lab of Air Department V-4 Division has a unique and important mission: to ensure that aircraft and utility vehicles have good clean fuel so both the ship and its crew can continue running at peak performance, keeping Stennis in the fight.

“Without the Quality Control Lab, we simply can’t fly,” said Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) (AW/ SW) James Reynolds, V-4’s Division Leading Chief Petty Officer.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 2nd Class David Landivittori, the lab’s work-center supervisor, says the fueling process is not simply a matter of pumping the fuel around the ship. The fuel has to be tested at each stage of the process to ensure proper mixture and to check for unacceptable levels of contaminants such as water.
“There’s always some amount of water in the fuel,” said Landivittori. “But we want to keep the ratio very low. None if possible. Ten parts-per-million is the maximum amount we allow. Any higher and there is risk of ice damage to jet engines because water freezes at high elevations.”

Ice and other contaminants can endanger the mission, personnel and millions of dollars worth of equipment.

“To prevent engine damage, we check that there is the proper amount of Fuel System Icing Inhibitor (FCII) in the fuel,” said Landivittori. FCII is an additive that reduces the likelihood of water remnants freezing and is held at 3 percent minimum.

Water isn’t the only contaminant that can get into the fuel. The lab is the front line defense against minerals from gas lines and tanks.

Another risk the lab helps limit is the danger of early combustion of fuel. They do this by monitoring the flashpoint of the fuel and maintaining it above a certain level.

“We have to ensure that the fuel only burns at a temperature of 140 degrees or higher,” said Landivittori. “It’s actually our biggest concern. We need to make sure that everyone from below decks up to the flight deck is safe.”

Even without an embarked air wing, the Fuels Quality Control Lab sometimes tests hundreds of fuel samples per day.

“Our guys are the best, and I mean that exactly,” said Reynolds. “We received the highest scores ever given on our inspections during this last INSURV. Everyone in fuels is deployment-ready to go.”

In preparation for the arrival of the air wing in a few days, the fuel testing lab will frequently test all the fuel on the ship called “flushing the deck.”

“We have 18 stations and we test samples from each every 24 hours,” said Landivittori. “We also do random tests at all times to ensure purity. We have to put in a lot of effort to make sure everything is ready to go for the air wing. But when the day ends, we go to bed and then we get up the next day and do it all again.”

The Fuels Quality Control Lab always plays an important role in daily operations, but will be crucial to Stennis’ duty of launching mission essential aircraft as a forward deployed carrier during the upcoming deployment.