Six quivering black bladders strain against their restraining straps as the powerful Firebird's (the 17th Troop Carrier Squadron) C-130 Hercules sweep skyward during Sondrestrom's principal resupply mission of the year. Four ski-equipped Alaskan-based C-130s fly 30 ice cap missions a week, carrying diesel fuel to the two DEW-line sites. The refueling operation actually begins the summer before the airlift activity. Huge tankers carrying hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel, make their way to Camp Lloyd during the summer months of July and August. At the port, they empty their liquid energy through pipelines into storage tanks that line the port road. The following spring, Firebird crews begin the three-week refueling operation near the end of April. This year, flights begin April 25th.

A flatbed truck with six puckered bladders visits the fuel stand near the Danish Hotel where a nozzle pumps 500 gallons of diesel fuel into each. The skids holding the bladders are then transferred to an aircraft. A short flight later, skis slide to a snowy stop and the bladders are then off loaded to a large sled. In 15 minutes, the Firebirds leave the white wasteland for another load.
Photo by Ray Hull, 1965

Meanwhile, the precious fuel, 3,000 gallons at a time, is sucked into four tanks buried under 60 feet of perpetual ice and snow. With aircraft scheduled one hour apart, filling the 297,000 gallon tanks at each site takes 99 flights.

Refueling of the two coastal sites is done in the summer months when smaller tankers draw fuel from Sondrestrom and sail for each of the remaining sites. With more equipment. "Everything's running smoothly on this end said SSgt. Billy L. Duncan, NCOIC of refueling. "We're a little ahead of schedule and really don't anticipate any trouble. " said the sergeant. The refueling operation is scheduled to end May 20th.

Sondrestrom Sun
Vol. 4 No. 8
May 13, 1964


Articles courtesy of :
William E. "Bill" Bless
Aircraft Commander
17th Troop Carrier Squadron