PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — There aren’t many gas stations 20,000+ feet in the sky. That’s why the 142nd Fighter Wing has a KC-135 Stratotanker that can refuel planes while they’re mid-flight.
“Air-to-air refueling is a core capability of air force air power. It’s part of what gives us global reach and global power as an air force,” 142nd Fighter Wing Commander Adam Sitler said.
The 142nd invited KOIN 6 to get a behind-the-scenes look at a recent refueling mission. It’s a perfectly choreographed procedure. All the pilots, crew members, and ground crew have to be on the same page regarding where the refueling will take place, the time, the altitude of each plane, speed and more.
The fuel is transported from the tanker through a boom that connects to the fighter jet. It flows at a rate of more than 1,000 pounds per minute.
Chas Cramer, the tech sergeant who operated the boom during the flight, said it takes months and months of training to get the procedure down. He estimates he’s done at least 200 refueling missions.
“Today was fun,” Cramer said. “We’re just happy to be down here doing this and let other people see the mission and what we’re a part of, so that was very cool.”
The 142nd Fighter Wing was established in 1946 and is one of the main units of the Oregon Air National Guard. It has about 1,350 people in its ranks and flies national defense missions.
“We fly F-15s, we have some special operations forces, as well as an air control squadron and then many other airmen who are enablers who can also back fill the Air Force all around the world,” Sitler said. The 142nd also frequently provides disaster relief.