Timelessness of the KC-135

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Cody Dowell
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

The 97th Air Mobility Wing celebrated the 60th anniversary of the KC-135 Stratotanker’s first flight. Former boom operators took off into the skies over southwestern Oklahoma Aug. 31, 2016 , to celebrate this important Air Force milestone .

The flight was meant to bring the mission of the Air Force home for former military air re-fuelers. Thus capturing the heritage of the KC-135 and those who helped operate it.

On board the flight was retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Colton Crowder, 909th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator. Crowder flew in the KC-135 for 18 years and the KC-10 for 10 years. He spoke about how the KC-135’s endured throughout the years.

“I hope they keep the KC-135 around forever, it’s a great airplane, it still flies great, it still looks the same since the time I flew it,” said Crowder. “Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s not relevant anymore.”

Former U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Lori Wood, 97th ARS boom operator assigned to Eaker AFB, was a boom operator when the career was newly open to all genders. Wood spoke about her experiences aboard the KC-135.

“I still think that they will never stop flying the KC-135,” said Wood.  “As long as there are parts to pull for it we will need it, I can’t see them retiring it. In the short time that I flew in the KC-135 I saw how far it could reach and how much that it was capable of.”

The KC-135 provides long-range aerial refueling support for the U.S. Air Force and was one of the first jet powered aerial refueling tankers. It has helped support the Air Force’s mission by refueling aircrafts during operations in Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The KC-135 has been around for so long that aerial refueling has become a tradition of sorts for some Air Force families to carry on.

Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Temur Ablay, 54th ARS boom operator, retired after 20 years of flying in a KC-135 and has passed the torch to his son who is a current boom operator.

“My son possibly became a boom operator because I would tell him stories when he was young that it was the best job in the Air Force,” said Ablay. “I didn’t have to push him much to become a boom operator and I hope that one day that my granddaughter will get the chance to fly on one.”

The 60th anniversary flight gave the former boom operators another chance to take off into the sky, passing the torch to the next generation.