Dittus brothers serve and celebrate together

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christopher A Arnold
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Lt. Col. James Dittus performed his "Fini Flight" May 26, his last flight before leaving the 97th Operations Group; his brother Maj. Robert Dittus flew alongside him refueling Colonel. Dittus' C-17.

A "Fini Flight" is a culminating flight in an aviator's career. It usually reflects the last flight before leaving a unit, and in many cases, when concluding a career. In Colonel Dittus' case he is leaving the 97th Operations Group and moving to a new assignment.

"This was a great opportunity to fly as a receiver in my C-17 and take on fuel from my brother in a KC-135. As a schoolhouse instructor, I usually see basic refueling skills from students in both the receiver and tanker aircraft. Today's mission was a rare opportunity for two highly experienced crews to train on some challenging maneuvers" said Colonel Dittus.

Colonel Dittus was commissioned in 1992 and became a KC-135 pilot, culminating as an instructor at 97 Air Mobility Wing in 2002. Later he transitioned to the C-17 and then moved from McChord AFB to Altus AFB to take command of 97th Training Squadron. He completed his tour at Altus AFB as 97th Operation Group Deputy Commander. Colonel Dittus has over 3,700 flying hours at this point in his career.

His brother, Major Dittus, was commissioned in the Air Force in 1988 and became a KC-135 pilot. Ending his active duty career developing the Pacer Compass, Radar, and GPS, glass cockpit modification, for the KC-135, he separated from the Air Force and began flying for American Airlines and for the Air Force Reserve.

When Colonel Dittus asked his brother if he was available to refuel him on his Fini Flight both the Operations Groups at Altus AFB and March Air Reserve Base granted his request. During the flight, they practiced a radio silent rendezvous and refueling over Arizona and New Mexico. During the refueling, they performed training events to enhance their instructor skills, including autopilot off refueling, refueling envelope limit demonstrations, and a radio silent practice emergency separation. After the air refueling, Colonel Dittus flew a low level training route in New Mexico and then returned to land at Altus AFB.

"This is the third time my brother and I have flown together. Our first time was in 2000; he launched in a KC-135 from McConnell AFB, and I launched in a KC-135 from Altus AFB to rendezvous over New Mexico and land at Nellis AFB. We departed from there separately the next day but later rendezvoused to land at McConnell AFB. I returned the next day to Altus. The second time was in 2007; we were both assigned to 376th Expeditionary Operations Group (he was at Incirlik Air Base flying KC-135s, and I was at Manas Air Base flying C-17s and I happened to be a passenger on his aircraft" said Colonel Dittus.