Kansas Coyotes refuel Spangdahlem fighters
By Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman, 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 19, 2014
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
At more than 28,000 feet above ground, a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker and its crew assigned to the 117th Air Refueling Squadron in Topeka, Kansas, executed an aerial refueling mission with 52nd Fighter Wing F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft Sept. 18 at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.
Aerial refueling is the process of transferring fuel from one aircraft to another during flight to allow aircraft to be airborne longer, extending its range and mission capabilities.
"The F-16 usually has a mission time of about an hour to an hour and a half," said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Andrew J. Taylor, a 52nd FW F-16 pilot. "Being able to use the tankers and refuel in the air is awesome for us. It allows us to do longer missions. We can set up a scenario, go fight and then go get fuel in the air to go back and fight again."
During the refueling process, the aircraft receiving the fuel is within about 30 feet of the tanker. The fuel is transferred through the flying boom, a telescoping tube with movable flight control surfaces that an operator on the tanker aircraft extends and inserts into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft.
For one Airman, operating the flying boom is as rewarding as it gets.
"Getting to do this for a living is amazing," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ben Tressler, an in-flight refueling specialist from the 117th Air Refueling Squadron. "I joined the Air Force to travel and I've been to 29 different countries because of this job. To me, there's not a better gig in the world."
Since the KC-135 was from the Kansas Air National Guard and was taking off from Spangdahlem runway for their training, it gave a small group of Spangdahlem Airmen the opportunity to fly with the crew and observe in-air refueling operations.
"Most of the time it's routine training," Taylor said. "This time it's a little more exciting because it allowed some of our maintenance Airmen, the people who take care of our jets, to get a front row seat to what we do up there. It shows them how their work on the ground enables us to do our work in the air."
For many Airmen on board, it was their first time seeing the refueling process.
"Seeing the boom hook up with the F-16s was awesome," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Francisco J. Bautista, a 480th Air Maintenance Squadron electrician. "We work with the F-16s every day and to get to see them in action from the tanker was a great experience."