Rampside Classic: 1982 International COF 5370 Aircraft Fueler

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(Submitted by Ed Hodges)    One of the great things about a day spent at the airport, besides the obvious plane spotting opportunities, is the chance to see classic (or perhaps geriatric) fleet vehicles still earning their keep. The pop up everywhere: as tugs, fuelers, maintenance vehicles – even regular passenger vehicles. Sights like a 1990 Jeep Cherokee that would look (were it not for the faded decals) as if it had just rolled off the factory floor can be found still in use to shuttle ramp security around. Certainly a rare sightup here, where it hardly takes one or two decades for salt and rust to completely obliterate a vehicle.

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But airport vehicles are spared most of the horrors of our winters. Mainly, they are exposed to almost no salt. To spare the aircraft some of the same rapid corrosion, potassium acetate or heated sand is substituted on runways and ramps. Also, they see comparatively very little use. This particular fueler has amassed a whopping 29,000 km in the last 34 years!

 

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This is an International COF 5370 cabover truck, built on the 26th of January in 1982. It is powered by a DT466 diesel, a 7.6 liter 12 valve turbocharged inline 6. Its conversion to an airport tanker was completed sometime in 1984, on this side of the border in Chambly, Quebec. You may not have driven, rode in, or even seen a 5370 before – but if you are around my age, one of those DT466 engines has likely carried you around countless kilometers.

In fact, that engine may well be the ultimate school bus motor, and the 12 valve variant was still being produced up until a few years ago for export markets. Designed for agricultural equipment, the motor found its way into countless box trucks, moving vans, buses, and stationary applications. Parts from a 1978 motor will easily fit up to even a 1994, and a million miles is not a huge problem. But at the rate our example is racking up miles, it might be a few thousand years before its odometer ticks over to zero!

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It is quite a convenient juxtaposition to see this International defueling a 1976 Douglas DC-10, of all planes. Both are in the same boat: modern replacements exist which are more efficient, more reliable, more ergonomic for operators, and certainly leak far less oil. But, due to their low acquisition cost, both are still in regular use after about four decades.

Of course, the hilariously overbuilt and tragically under-engineered DC-10 costs somewhat more to maintain and operate. Despite this, there are still a few out there that have managed to stay profitable, despite their age. But it may not be long before trijets disappear form airports altogether: this 10-30-F is in for a major heavy overhaul. It will take months, thousands of man-hours, and a bill well into seven figures. And even after completing this heavy check, it will be a mere two years before major components are time-x’ed – their age will necessitate a replacement that will make the aircraft Beyond Economic Repair. It may even retire earlier – if it pops another couple engines – as the operator is down to their last spare motor.

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But I digress. The story of the DC-10 deserves its own Rampside Classic someday. But when you see one still working it is tough to ignore – one is compelled to comment.

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The International’s tank holds nearly 18000 liters and is all aluminum. The engine has a power take-off, which drives a large pump. When it decides to work, the pump allows an operator to remove fuel from an aircraft so that it moved into a hangar for work. The fuel is then pumped back into the plane when maintenance is complete and it is moved back outside. There is a pull-type throttle that allows the operator to bring the engine rpm up independent of the gas pedal when the pump is in use.

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This truck is doing its job well enough that this company bought another nearly identical one from government auction. A quick paint job, some new light bulbs, and new oil and filters are all its getting before it is pressed into service now that business is picking up. While its tough to say whether these two will see another 34 years, the updated International 466 (now called the Maxxforce DT in its current version) continues to power trucks, MRAPs, and buses alike.