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dman
08-31-2006, 11:12 AM
Wanted to pass this along, I know some people on the board follow aviation and defense related discussions pretty closely. I am also a member of the 121st Air Refueling Wing at Rickenbacker and have worked on the KC-135 for nearly 16 years now. It's very rare to get a product of such a good design that it has been in service for 50 years and appears to be in service for another 25 to 30 years. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the KC-135 Stratotanker in Air Force service. When so many airplanes have come and gone in Air Force service, this plane is still hoofing it out, with no signs of slowing down. An amazing testament to a sound design and outstanding maintenance personnel.


Veteran of the skies soars into 50th year

A VETERAN of the skies celebrates half-a-century of flying today (Thursday, 31 August).

The American Air Force's KC- 135 Stratotanker jets are a familiar sight in the region, operating from Mildenhall.

Most of the crews who fly the planes were not born when they first entered service and some pilots are the second generation to fly them.

The aircraft are the mainstay of the US Air Force's in-flight refuelling fleet and have played a key role in all major conflicts by keeping fighter and bomber planes in the air.

Colonel Mike Callis, vicecommander of the base's 100th Air Refuelling Wing, said: "It's an amazingly capable aeroplane and I think it's going to be around for a good while."

Col Callis, 46, has flown the planes since 1983 and followed in the footsteps of his father who flew some of the first aircraft to enter service.

He has flown other planes including the KC-10, a larger air refueller based on the DC-10 airliner, and C-17 transport plane.

But he said: "I still think this is the prettiest. I've enjoyed flying it."

Major updates, including the fitting of modern turbofan engines and computerised cockpit instrumentation, have helped keep the aircraft flying even though the last one rolled off the production line in 1965.

With no obvious replacement planned, Col Callis said it was possible that his two daughters, aged 20 and 15, could end up flying a KC-135 if they chose to join the Air Force.

To demonstrate the capability of the plane, and to mark the anniversary, the regional media was given the chance to fly on an air refuelling mission from Mildenhall.

The plane, built in 1963, passed nearly 10,000 gallons of fuel to eight F-15E Strike Eagle jets from the Lakenheath base over the sea off the Norfolk coast.

The refuelling was carried out in a little over 40 minutes while flying at 16,000ft and nearly 500mph.

The demonstration was a training exercise for the pilots involved to keep their skills up to scratch. But during conflicts such as the Iraq war, 4,600 planes were refuelled in flight by KC- 135s in all weathers during day and night.

During the 2005-6 year, Mildenhall's 15 KC-135s delivered nearly 15 million gallons of fuel in the air during 1,339 hours of flying.

Pilot Capt Josh Jensen, 29, said: "It's amazing to keep it going. It has its quirks, but it's a good bird."

Roy Tucker
08-31-2006, 11:55 AM
Ah, hence your avatar. Very cool, great job, and thank you dman.

I think the B-52 is close to a simliar service record.

Redsland
08-31-2006, 04:15 PM
During the 2005-6 year, Mildenhall's 15 KC-135s delivered nearly 15 million gallons of fuel in the air during 1,339 hours of flying.
:eek:

Those things have passed more gas than GAC!

;)

dman
08-31-2006, 10:02 PM
Ah, hence your avatar

I love loud, pointy nose airplanes with afterburners, but there is something graceful about larger aircraft just lumbering along