Flying high

... So I got to fly in a KC-135 Stratotanker with the Air National Guard and watch it refuel an F-16 at 30,000 feet above ground today.


Pretty awesome.

Along with a select group that included country singer Laura Bryna, and on what one guardsmen described as “a perfect day for flying,” we convened at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Field for a pre-flight briefing, and then boarded the 136-foot-long, 41-foot-high Stratotanker.

The take-off and overall flight was smoother than most commercial flights I've been on ... And during the flight we got to roam the cabin, sit inside the cockpit and then lay below the deck with a boom operator as he controlled the refueling process and the F-16s swooped in ...

I'll do the rest of my talking in pictures, but first a few other notes ...

... The KC-135 Stratotanker’s primary objective is air refueling, though it’s also quite capable of transporting military equipment or flying patients and evacuation missions. The plane can hold 200,000 pounds of fuel or a cargo load of up to 83,000 pounds. The guardsmen explained to us the tanker can disperse as much gasonline in a minute as the average car uses in a year ... That's crazy!

...Basically, the Stratotanker is “a flying gas station” — albeit one with a 130-foot wingspan, a top speed of about 530 mph and up to 21,634 pounds of thrust in each engine. And the refueling missions must happen in specific areas, or refueling tracks, in the sky. “We don’t just fly up there and wait for somebody to come through and swipe their card,” a guardsman told us. “We’ve got a rendezvous. We’ve got a planned place and time and altitude in the sky that we’re going to meet our receivers.”

... Also these planes were only made between 1957 and 1963, but they look and feel brand new. “I equate them to your dad’s or your ’57 Chevy that’s sitting in that garage that nobody touches," the guardsmen told us. "It’s incredible because these planes fly every day. We fly missions every day. When you look at them, you look at how clean they are.”

For more about the trip, go here. For some of my photos and a video I shot, keep scrolling.

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