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Training for worst case scenario

Members of the 140th Aircraft Fuels Systems Repair shop prepare to decontaminate an F-16 during a training exercise June 12.

Members of the 140th Aircraft Fuels Systems Repair shop prepare to decontaminate an F-16 during a training exercise June 12.

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- While the ANG is commonly referred to as the Blue division of the Guard, members of the 140th Maintenance Squadron took the hue to another level when they suited up to decontaminate an F-16 Fighting Falcon during hydrazine response exercises at Buckley Air Force Base June 8 and 12. 

Hydrazine fuels the emergency power unit of an F-16 in the event the aircraft loses hydraulic, electrical or engine power in flight. Although it's instrumental in helping a disabled jet land safely, the poisonous liquid can sometimes leak, causing both liquid and vapor contamination that can be harmful -- or even fatal. 

To start the exercise each day, an F-16 with a simulated hydrazine leak was taxied to a containment area. 

"You don't want to spread that hydrazine all over the runway," said Tech. Sgt. Shane Bonifas, 140th Aircraft Fuel Systems Repair shop. 

In addition to being toxic and corrosive, hydrazine can also spontaneously ignite, which
is why the fire department arrived on scene first to extract the pilot and contain the simulated spill until the fuel systems repair team arrived to clean up the area. 

In addition to containing the spill, the fire department was also on hand to monitor the vital signs of team members while they worked, and decontaminate them upon completion. The fire department was also prepared to extract the team from the site in case evacuation was required. 

According to Bonifas, once the hydrazine is contained, it may take up to eight hours to decontaminate the affected areas, depending on the amount spilled. 

Then the time for repair comes. 

"We'll just follow our tech procedures and hopefully get the aircraft back into service," Bonifas said. 

Bonifas said an actual hydrazine spill is uncommon, and would only occur during a malfunction. But despite the rarity of the scenario, the 140th MXS trains for it often.