(Submitted by Ed Hodges. First posted 11/6/2016) 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Very cool, I too enjoy looking at the rolling stock of airports, there is always something different out there.
How does that work with the de-fueling – Is the fuel stored somewhere or does it just sit in the truck until the plane is done? I assume it can be used in another plane in the same fleet I suppose.
And how does fuel in general work at an airport, is it basically all the same worldwide for passenger and freight planes or do some require different mixtures, such as in cars? Is the quality the same in Los Angeles and Nairobi or are there differences?
For heavy maintenance, the aircraft will still come in with many thousands of pounds of fuel on board. Often, the plane will be defueled into such a truck, then an outgoing plane that has completed heavy maintenance will be fueled partially from the truck and the rest from the airport’s fueler.
Most operations will deal with multiple planes undergoing heavy maintenance simultaneously, with their arrivals and departures staggered so as not to overlap. This means that the same fuel coming out of a plane will not typically be the same fuel going into that plane when it leaves. The pumps on these trucks meter the amount of fuel pumped in or out (although, this particular truck is notorious for its inaccuracy) so customer planes typically roll back out with a similar amount of the surplus fuel that they arrived with.
Trucks in this type of use can last seemingly forever. A few years ago I saw a fuel tanker from the airport nearest me at a local garage. It was an early ’60s Ford and its gas-fueled straight-six was quite obvious when the hood was up.
It would be interesting to know the hours on this unit in comparison to the odometer.
I’d totally forgotten about these face-lifted IH COE trucks. They were not all that common, unlike the original versions.
Me too, in fact even after seeing these pictures, I have no memories of that rectangular-light front end. And I was working in the truck industry at that time, so paid attention to these things.
Don’t recall seeing one with square headlights before, of course it’s probably been years since I’ve seen one at all.
There is a 1980 IH Scout vibe in those square headlights.
What were the original versions? I know I’ve never seen a square-lamp version, and growing up in the 80’s, there were a lot of older trucks around. If the original was the one in the illustration of the red garbage truck, I don’t remember those either. Plenty of Cargostars, plenty of Transtars (the later variants of which can still be seen) but none of this type of COE in my recollection.
Just seems odd to see a truck that was sold in the USA, in the 80’s, that I’m totally unfamiliar with. Interesting to learn something new though!
I have one I shot. I’ll make a note to do a post on it.
Don’t think I’ve ever seen one in my life. Looks almost like a Latin American model.
Before the adoption of the hub and spoke system by the airlines, you might make several stops on the same aircraft before arriving at your final destination. I remember looking out the windows of the jet as ground crews would unload and load luggage as well as the tanker truck coming up to the plane for refueling. As the years went by, I realized how much fuel was on those tankers. Rest assured, all safety precautions were taken by the ground crews, but I made a mental note of each exit in case something went wrong even if I had to jump to the tarmac.
In other aircraft-related news, yesterday (Nov. 5th) another restored B-29 took to the air to join FiFi:
Great tribute as we near Veteran’s Day.
Nice to see the older stuff still earning its keep. Good thing too as the Maxxfarce DT has turned out to be a steaming pile of excrement in our fleet.
Interesting stuff here. On the rare occasions when I fly, I consider spotting the unusual-looking airport equipment to be one of the best aspects of the flying experience. And I often wonder about the life expectancy and usage of this equipment, since to my untrained eye, a lot of the vehicles look pretty dated… sort of the airport equivalent of municipal leaf-suction trucks.
This article filled in some of the mysterious details. Thanks!
I’m always surprised at he number of full-size US pickup based rigs – baggage and food service, specifically – that I’ve seen in foreign airports
Perfect application for a DT 466, not a hill to be seen, ever.
Yep! Fully loaded with 18000 liters of fuel, I do not think this thing gets up fast enough to shift into top gear. Luckily, not too many hills around the airport!
As a kid, I used to love watching the little baggage-cart tugs zipping around, not to mention all the other interesting vehicles. Never knew the engineering and logistics behind what they were doing, though, so this article was very welcome. I’d love to see another one soon.
This looks like it could be the yellow one
I’ve always wondered why some airport trucks have a huge two piece muffler at the front of the cab right under the bumper. I’ve never seen this muffler configuration being used anywhere else but in the confines of an airport. This Fuso airport fuel truck also has a giant muffler under the front bumper.
To keep the exhaust heat from the fuel. There’s a early 70’s Ford truck with no roof that was a airplane fuel truck just outside Nocona TX. It also has the front mount muffler. I’ll get a pic in a few days.
To keep the exhaust and potential sparks away from the business end of the refuelling operations.
The COF-5370 was an interesting truck. Though it resembles the common Cargostar, it is something of a hybrid, combining a widened Cargostar cab on a modified Paystar chassis. The intent was to create a heavy duty low cab forward for refuse service, and the design also worked well for aircraft refueling. In this picture of a couple of Cargostars you can see the narrower cab with a one-piece windshield:
That explains it; thanks. I kept wondering just what this was in relation to the Cargostar.
I thought it looked wider than a Cargostar, but there were similarities. Makes a lot of sense.
In all my years of flying for travel, I have been on darn near every model of MD, Boeing, Airbus, BAE, Bombardier, deHaviland, you name it. I never made it onto one of these.
Just as well, given their safety record.
Yes, they have quite an ‘interesting’ safety record. We will see how much longer they are around, as I have a hunch that this most recent landing gear collapse and engine fire with the Fed-Ex MD10 this month may be related to the main trunnion pin corrosion that these are notorious for. More frequent landing gear checks may be just another straw that might make these uneconomical to operate.
The DC-10 certainly had some issues in its earlier years, but supposedly the bugs were worked out and they were much more reliable as years went on. Pilots really enjoyed flying them from the different documentaries and such that I have seen online. When the MD-11 replaced the DC-10 in 1989 some serious modifications were done that made them truly great, reliable aircraft.
I never thought about the vehicles that airports use to transport fuel and luggage. We really take them for granted! This was an interesting insight as to the nature of those vehicles.
It was an Swissair MD-11 where the cockpit filled with smoke and crashed in the Atlantic off the east coast in 1999. Also, I remember reading about the MD-11 in an aviation mag in about the time it came out. One of the new features was a fuel tank in the rear right under the middle engine. They questioned the wisdom of such a move, as this was right after the Sioux City crash in ’89 where the engine exploded and took out the hydraulics. Now there’s a fuel tank back there. AFAIK, this has never been an issue up to now, though.
Seeing as that particular airframe had its first flight for UAL in 1972, I won’t say I am surprised something failed, but the number of cycles flown, something, at some point must fail, even with rigorous maintenance. Look what happened to one of its sister ships, operating as UAL 232, 27 years ago.
Many pleasant hours on Western DC-10 Spaceships between HNL and LAX. Free flowing champagne. “Western, the oooonly way to fly!”
Many air miles for me in DC-10’s…Western Airlines, CP Air, Canadian Airlines International, UTA French Airlines and Wardair
Another example would be brush fire trucks. Lots of fire departments here have 30 year old ex-military Chevy pickups.
I can remember from when this was first posted, having never before seen this final plastic-grille/square headlight facelift of these.
Some years ago in Flickr’s heyday as a proto-social-media image sharing site, I encountered a ’74-77 era Ford Maverick 4-door airport crew transport. It was painted in the current (mid ’00s) United Airlines gray livery. An unusual thing, since you’d expect that unlike the specially upfitted trucks an off-the-shelf sedan would be rotated through the fleet relatively quickly while it still had resale value.
I wonder if there is a special-order final drive ratio for airport vehicles that keeps them understressed for their whole lives.
There is a wide range of gear ratios available, available options is huge when your ordering trucks.
This pup would carry around 33,000 pounds of fuel, truck may weigh around 20,000 lbs, 53-58,000 lbs gross weight.
All depends on what type of speed and acceleration you are looking for. DT466 would be in the spec of not worried to much about speed or acceleration. I’d guess maybe a rear gear in the 7-1 range and a 6 speed trans or if the budget allows slap in an Allison.
Burlington Northern Railways had a fueling truck very similar to this rig, I believe theirs was a medium duty GMC 70 series, 7,000 gallon tank, tandem drive axles, 5 speed with an 8.2L V8 Detroit Fuel Pincher, don’t recall if it was turbocharged or not. Gutless without fuel in it, put a couple of clutches in it. Can’t imagine how gutless it would have been with a fuel load in it.
Turning attention to this DC-10-30 (the international version, converted to freighter DC-10F) which was sold by Kelowna Flightcraft which continued to operate it for about three years after the photo was taken.
Reg Airline Delivery Date Status
D-ADLO Lufthansa 01.12.75 Left Fleet
D-ADLO Condor s24.01.95 Left Fleet
N13086 Continental Air Lines 10.11.97 Left Fleet
N303WL World Airways 27.07.01 Left Fleet
C-GKFT Kelowna Flightcraft 03.12.09 Left Fleet
N917KW Alta Airlines Holdings LLC 11.10.18 Stored
Stored 2018 at Lakeland-Linder Regional Airport, Florida (LAL). Operated 15APR2019 to Kansas City, MO (MCI) which is its last reported location.
That may be the end, as an undated image from Google Earth shows a white DC-10 at MCI, being dismantled, next to an Air France MD-80 also being scrapped.
I wonder why the truck had such a long time brand new before it was upfitted. Seems like a long time for a brand new truck to be brought to its purpose.
As for DC/MD-10s, I was recently watching a YouTube video about a FedEx crew getting a cargo fire alarm, and getting to ground on an emergency basis. Everyone was a professional and the plane went from cruise to ground in about 12 minutes. It turned out there was no fire and escaped lady bugs were the cause of the alarm (you never know what’s on a cargo plane!). Interesting, but the shock to me was that the aircraft was one I’d already heard of: N306FE. This plane was hijacked April 7, 1994 by an off-duty pilot named Auburn Calloway, who was deadheading to a meeting in which he’d likely be fired. I was really surprised that particular aged aircraft was still earning its keep. The 10 certainly earned early skepticism, but has been well proven in the time since.
The conversion of many dozen DC-10 into MD-10 freighters by Boeing and subcontractors proved the ruggedness, dependability and operating cost benefits of the DC-10 in its maturity, made even better by the reduction of crew from three to two. The design and development work had mostly been done by McDonnell Douglas for the MD-11’s two-crew “glass cockpit.” Structural and cargo door modifications had already been well proven in purpose-built DC-10F freighters. No such modification for life extension was ever done for the competing Lockheed L-1011 due to that plane’s lack of a two-crew direct successor, its low production numbers and the high cost to maintain its Rolls-Royce engines.
As for the N306FE, as I write this it is in the air as FedEx Flight 53 from Memphis to Toluca, Mexico, its cargo likely auto parts for the assembly plants there.
I looked it up after writing that, it’s scheduled to be retired by 12/31/2022, and was carefully set to be the last of its type retired. I guess its unique and distinguished history won it some consideration. It wasn’t converted, either. Always a cargo.
Vocational trucks can have very long build cycles. I have experienced truck orders take over a year just to get the cab chassis and then it has to wait for another bit of time for the upfitter to do his part. Another part of the problem is most of these trucks are only assembled by the manufacturer and upfitter. There are so many suppliers involved supplying all the pieces you need and all it takes is one major supplier problem to jam up the whole thing. Back in the mid 90’s it took a year from time of order to just get the chassis’, the reason was high demand of trucks combined with a very high demand for Allison transmissions. I was purchasing around 60 trucks per year for plow trucks. I was already finalizing my next annual order and had not yet the trucks from the previous order.
Up and down economies affect truck sales and over the last 20 years emission changes have also affected truck sales.
There was a large spike in sales in 2006 to avoid the 2007 emission changes. Three major reasons for this, cost increases, reliability and for the vocational side how would the upfitting work be affected by the emission changes.
The fueling trucks would be an excellent example of a truck that would have been replaced early because of emissions issues. Prior to the arrival of the soot traps on diesels rerouting exhaust was common place. 2007 brings you exhaust that cannot be tampered with. The truck manufacturer will probably have to come up with a solution, not the upfitter.
Our issue with the exhaust caused us to drop our mid-mount wing plow and go to a rear mount wing plow. With the mid-mount wing and an underbody plow almost all trucks had the exhaust systems rerouted.