Air Refueling Archive

Huge Collection of Air Refueling Pictures

Boeing YC-14 Proximity Testing

The following photos and narrative were provided by Billy Meeks, a former flight test boom operator at Edwards AFB.

YC-14 Proximity tests. The test article did not have a receptacle. A painted on representative receptacle was used as a reference to provide proximity positions. FTBO’s directed receiver test pilot to fly around to selected points for handling qualities evaluations within the tanker flow field environment. From that, qualitative assessments of flying qualities were established. The YC-14 was a Boeing candidate.

Boeing YC-14 Aerial refueling testing KC-135

February 19, 2018 Posted by | 1970s, External View, History, KC-135, KC-135A, YC-14 | Leave a comment

US Navy C-2 Greyhound refueling trials

The following photos and narrative were provided by Billy Meeks, a former flight test boom operator at Edwards AFB.

PROPELLERS. After developing a friendship with the NAVY Flight Test crowd it seemed like they developed a taste for compatibility testing. After the P3 they brought their C2 over for some prox work. We guessed they were using it as a surrogate for their E2. Initially, two Grumman test pilots flew the tests. Unfortunately neither of them were familiar with air refueling by our method. Two Navy test pilots assumed the duties. The tests were rather straight forward and unremarkable. Compatibility was assured. We watched the propellers constantly as in a normal refueling position the drogue appeared to be — at times— very near the propeller arc. However, manageable. Then.. came the night evaluate we had insisted on. We have the guy in the precontact for a period so we could all get our situational awareness spun up. I brought him forward and stopped him at 10 feet to evaluate that. Then on to the contact position. As he was maneuvering around while in contact, with the “S” in the hose, it became obvious if the drogue were to be released while forward it could, and likely would, penetrate the propeller arc. I requested he disconnect and fly the precontact. I turned on the light looked at Jimmy and he at me for a long moment and his look confirmed my thoughts.l terminated the test. In debrief I stated that the operation posed an unacceptable risk and I would recommend the practice not be continued. The Navy guy stated that he had hoped we would make that recommendation. No further action.

Navy C-2 Greyhound Air Refueling KC-135 Drogue (3)Navy C-2 Greyhound Air Refueling KC-135 Drogue (4)Navy C-2 Greyhound Air Refueling KC-135 Drogue (2)Navy C-2 Greyhound Air Refueling KC-135 Drogue (1)

February 19, 2018 Posted by | 1970s, Boom Pod View, C-2 Greyhound, History, US Navy | 1 Comment

A-10 Cracked UARRSI during flight test

The following photos and narrative were provided by Billy Meeks, a former flight test boom operator at Edwards AFB.

It’s been said , “one good test is worth a thousand opinions”. It’s also axiomatic that no test, regardless of outcome, is a failure. It may contain some elements of failure but, if something is learned that can lead to success, then the test is a success even in failure. The accompanying photos are an example. Phil Zamagne was the lead on a night lighting evaluation of A-10 lighting. We went out after dark and caught up with an A-10 being piloted by an AFTEC (previous to AFOTEC) pilot for an operational look. Phil completed his test card deck and concluded the test. I sniveled for one more contact and he permitted me to do so. The A-10 returned to the precontact, reported ready and moved forward. I put the nozzle in the receptacle and instead of a contact made light, all the lights went dim on the instrument panel. I reset with the nozzle in contact and got the same result. So, I thought let’s start over here and retracted the boom except it would not come out of the receptacle. Uh, Oh. So I monkeyed with it and it still would not come out. By now the A-10 guy was starting to get a little antsy and pretty much started running th limits. I/we finally got him settled down and following us and we tried a bunch of stuff all to no avail. I/we are starting to get concerned. After discussing our options we were down to a forced disconnect. So I set it up with him at mid boom and he retards his throttles, slides back to the end and, KLUNK. We are still stuck with him and him with us. Oookaay, let’s try this again. Same thing. All right, let’s enhance this a bit. Started him at 6 feet, he pulls his throttles and I stand on the extension. Zip, KLUNK. So we know we can’t land this way and he’s not amenable to us dragging him off on Mount Whitney. Just what are we going to do. I’m wondering if Phil is laughing at me but I’m scared to look to see. As it turned out the A-10 is one of two prototypes and had hydraulic system control switches. Someone asks and he confirms and turns off the switches and just like FM the boom comes out. This whole thing went on for what seemed like 30 minutes.

What happened? The A-10 has/had a “T” handle which controlled the deploy/retract function of the UARRSI. When he came back he pulled the handle but not all the way out. That allowed the slipway to bleed down but not lock down. He got a ready light as he normally would. When the boom went in it created an air flow situation such that the slipway door floated up behind the ball joint and captured the receptacle. See fotos, zoom and note the fractures in the assembly.

The fix: redesign such that the handle had to be fulled extended and locked by turning 90 degrees. This is a test failure that resulted in a successful outcome.

I’m claiming hero status for Phil and I since we maybe prevented some youngster from from finding out what it was like to land hooked up to an A-10.

A-10 Cracked UARSSI refueling recptacle (1)

A-10 Cracked UARSSI refueling recptacle (2)


February 19, 2018 Posted by | 1970s, A-10, History, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

KC-97 Refueling F-84 Thunderjets

Great video with a scene showing the F-84’s receptacle pop up from the left wing.

July 28, 2016 Posted by | 1960s, F-84, History, KC-97, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment


Here are some pictures of KB-29s and crew that were assigned TDY to the United Kingdom in the fall of 1949. The full story is unclear, but it appears that these KB-29s were fitted with British refueling equipment and then flown north for cold weather trials. Expert comments welcomed in the comment section below. All photos courtesy Paul Lee.

KB-29 (1) KB-29 (2) KB-29 (3) KB-29 (4) KB-29 (5) KB-29 (6) KB-29 (7) KB-29 (8)

Image Source:

Paul Lee

August 12, 2013 Posted by | 1940s, History, KB-29 | 1 Comment

History of Refueling

Great documentary about Air Refueling that aired on the Military Channel.

January 22, 2011 Posted by | 1920s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, B-47, B-52, Boom Operator, Boom Pod View, F-104, F-105, F-15, F-16, F-4, History, KB-29, kb-50, KC-10, KC-135, KC-135A, KC-97, Probe/Drogue, Question Mark, Receiver View, Video | 2 Comments

B-47 refueling from KC-97L

This is the refueling scene from the movie “Strategic Air Command”. In this scene a B-47 is refueled from a KC-97L. The KC-97L is easily identified by the addition of two J-47 turbojet engines under the wings outboard of the R-4360 radials. The J-47s gave the KC-97 a higher top speed which allowed it to refuel the new breed of high speed jet powered aircraft. The KC-97L was a stopgap measure until the KC-135A Stratotanker came online.

Video Source:

October 10, 2010 Posted by | 1950s, B-47, Boom Operator, Boom Pod View, External View, History, KC-97, Receiver View | , , | 1 Comment

Experimenting with jet refueling – Multiple F-84 refueling configurations

By the late 1940s and early 1950s, air refueling had been around in an experimental capacity for nearly 30 years. With the end of the Second World War and the inception of the Cold War, air refueling was seen as a vital technology that had to be further developed so that fuel hungry jet aircraft would have the range and endurance required to perform their required missions. The F-84 Thunderjet existed during this time of air refueling development and refinement; therefore it saw numerous configurations that included multiple drogue and receptacle variants. One of the more interesting configurations tested was a dual probe system that required the F-84 to refuel each of its wingtip mounted tanks with a separate probe that was integral to each tank. This highly offset design made it difficult for the receiver pilot to accurately make contact with the tanker’s drogue. The distance from aircraft centerline meant that the pilot would have to look sideways to align the probe with the drogue. During this time he would have to use his peripheral vision to fly formation off of the tanker. Complicating matters was the fact that any roll would be magnified at the wingtip.

Another drogue refueling method employed by later model F-84s was a single point refueling probe. The probe was located on the left side of the forward fuselage. This positioning made it much easier for the pilot to see the probe while still being able to fly formation off of the tanker. This design has proved to be the best positioning for refueling probes, and aircraft today still feature their probes in a similar position with respect to the pilot.

A third refueling system that can be found on the F-84 is a boom receptacle installed on the upper surface of the left wing. This design allowed an equipped F-84 to receive fuel from a boom tanker. The boom method of refueling lowered the receiver pilot’s workload because all he had to do was fly into the air refueling envelope after which the tanker’s boom operator could precisely place the nozzle into the receptacle. The rigid flying boom also provides a certain amount of stability (especially to small and lightweight aircraft like the F-84) between the two aircraft by resisting forward and aft motion. The receiver aircraft is still free to move for and aft in the envelope, but must first exceed pressure relief valves in the boom’s retract mechanism.

Dual Wingtip Tank Refueling

An F-84 aligning with the drogue. Notice how far off center the pilot must look to line up the probe with the basket. Any turbulence would make this essentially impossible.

F-84 on the basket.

An F-84 refueling its right wingtip tank. Unknown cause of fuel spray, likely slosh from tank vent.

Refueling the left tank from the second probe.

F-84 refueling from KB-29

KB-29 refueling F-84E over Korea in 1952

Single Point Probe

F-84 with single point drogue refueling taking fuel from a KC-135.

Boom and Receptacle

A receptacle equipped RF-84 pulls into the contact position behind a KB-29P

F-84 in contact with a KB-29P

High over West Texas, two F-84Gs of the 31st Fighter Escort Wing pull in behind a waiting KB-29P during Operation Fox Peter One. Note the opened receptacle on the upper surface of the left wing.

A F-84 taking fuel from a KC-97G using the boom and receptacle method of refueling.

An F-84 banks off to the right after refueling from a KC-97. Note the opened receptacle and drop tanks.

An excellent image of an F-84 pulling up behind a KB-29P. The KB-29P was the only tanker to have the boom operator situated above the boom. It was found difficult to align the boom from this position.

F-84 Refueling from KC-97

August 24, 2010 Posted by | 1950s, 1960s, Boom Pod View, External View, F-84, General, History, KB-29, KC-135, KC-135A, KC-97, RF-84 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

KB-29P – Heated Ruddevators

The boom of the KC-29P featured heated ruddevators so that ice would not accumulate on the control surfaces. Click image to enlarge

The boom of the KB-29P featured electrically heated ruddevators so that ice would not accumulate on the control surfaces. Click image to enlarge

This article from the June 1950 edition of Popular Science discusses the electrically heated ruddevators of the newly designed boom fitted to a KB-29p. Heated ruddevators were dropped from future boom designs, presumably due to the different refueling altitude that the KC-97 and KC-135 operated at. Note the B-50 being refueled in the bottom right picture. If anybody has information on the history of heated ruddevators (which booms featured them), please let me know through the comments.

Boeing developed the rigid flying boom system to improve on the hose and drogue in-flight refueling (IFR) system. The boom, mounted at the aft-most portion of the KB-29P, was fitted with two small wings that allowed the boom operator to maneuver the boom. The pilot of the receiver aircraft, guided by the boom operator and light signals on the tanker belly, flew behind and below the tanker for refueling. Once in position, the boom operator “flew” the boom into the refueling receptacle, and the KB-29P flight engineer began fuel transfer.

The flying boom system became the most common method for IFR and was used on KB-50s and KC-97s. It is still used on the USAF’s modern tankers — the KC-135 and KC-10.


May 10, 2009 Posted by | 1950s, External View, History, KB-29 | , | 1 Comment

History of aerial refueling: Fueling the fighters

by Mark L. Morgan
Hq. Air Mobility Command History Office

This is the fourth article in a series of articles highlighting the history of aerial refueling and the important role aerial refueling has played in American military history.

Strategic Air Command entered the 1950s on a roll. It operated a growing fleet of tanker aircraft, and the first jet bombers — commencing with the B-47 Stratojet — were coming on line.

The combination of tankers and bombers made SAC a truly global strike force, with mission duration only limited by crew endurance. However, one question remained: what was the proper role of SAC’s small escort fighter force?

During World War II, fighters, such as the legendary P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang, escorted bombers over their targets. However, the postwar jet-propelled fighters, such as the F-80 Shooting Star and F-84 Thunderjet, used fuel at a much higher rate and were, therefore, range-limited. They could no longer escort the bombers.

To be sure, the Air Force regularly transferred fighter units overseas, particularly after the outbreak of the Korean War on June 25, 1950. The standard method involved using U.S. Navy or Navy contact vessels — primarily World War II-era escort aircraft carriers — to physically ship the aircraft. This took weeks, and — more often than not and despite protective efforts — upon arrival the fighters required extensive maintenance because of salt air exposure and corrosion.

The answer was simple: find a way to extend the range of fighter aircraft. Initial efforts included projects with the names of Tip-Tow, Tom-Tom and FICON (for “Fighter Conveyor”). These did not involve actual in-flight refueling, but instead involved literally “towing” fighter aircraft, albeit under rather unusual circumstances.

Project Tip-Tow employed a modified B-29 and two F-84Ds, which attached to the bomber at either wingtip through a clamping device. Project Tom-Tom, tested in 1953, was similar and involved the coupling of RF-84F reconnaissance aircraft to the wing tips of a modified B-36. The FICON proposal involved the actual carriage of a modified RF-84F in the bomb bay of a B-36, slung beneath a trapeze.

During testing, flying the fighters in close proximity to large bombers and hooking up proved supremely challenging, even in perfect weather. A fatal crash involving the Tip-Tow B-29 and one of the F-84s in April 1953 reinforced this and led to the cancellation of Tip-Tow. Doing such hook-ups operationally, possibly in combat and most likely at night and in bad weather, made the efforts even more risky. Fortunately, advances in air refueling of fighters made all three of these difficult and complex “towing” methods superfluous.

As during the early development of SAC tankers, the United Kingdom’s Flight Refueling Limited, or FRL, led the way. The company fabricated external drop tanks with integral refueling probes, suitable for using with the probe and drogue system. On Oct. 22, 1950 — barely four months after the start of the Korean War – U.S. Air Force Col. David C. Schilling used this system to make the first non-stop, air-refueled flight by a fighter across the Atlantic Ocean.

Colonel Schilling commanded the 62nd Fighter Squadron and later the 56th Fighter Group in the European Theater during World War II. In July 1948 he led the F-80s of the 56th Fighter Wing from Selfridge Air Force Base, Mich., across the Atlantic to the Royal Air Force installation at Odiham, England. Accomplished under the title of Fox Able One (“Fighters Atlantic, Operation No. 1”), Schilling’s pilots went over via landings and fueling stops at Bangor, Maine; Goose Bay, Labrador; Bluie West 1/Narsarsuaq, Greenland; Meeks Field, Iceland; and RAF Stornaway, the Hebrides. Because of stops and the weather, the 16 fighters took 10 days to get to Europe.

In October 1950, using aerial refueling, Colonel Schilling made the trip in the reverse direction in an incredible 10 hours and 8 minutes.

After launching from RAF Manston in two modified F-84Es, Schilling and Colonel William Ritchie refueled from FRL-operated Avro Lincoln bombers/tankers over Scotland and Iceland. Unfortunately, one of Ritchie’s probes sustained damage during the contact over Iceland. Unable to take on fuel, he literally ran out of gas and ejected. Fortunately, he was quickly rescued.

With the Korean War well underway and its high demand for fighter aircraft, the Wright Air Development Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, designed additional external drop tanks with fixed refueling probes and dispatched them to the theater. Republic Aviation, the manufacturer of the Thunderjet, concurrently started delivery of the F-84G with a refueling receptacle in the leading edge of the left wing compatible with SAC’s boom-equipped KB-29Ps.

On July 6, 1951, the first combat air refueling of fighter-type aircraft took place over Korea. Three RF-80As launched from Taegu with the modified tip-tanks and rendezvoused with a tanker offshore of Wonsan, North Korea. Through in-flight refueling, the RF-80s effectively doubled their range, which enabled them to photograph valuable targets in North Korea.

The big test came with plans for the movement of an entire fighter wing to the Korean theater. On July 4, 1952, 60 F-84Gs launched from Turner AFB, Ga., and flew the 1,800 nautical miles to Travis AFB, Calif., non-stop. Refueled en route by 24 KB-29Ps over Texas, this served as the rehearsal for the main event, designated Fox Peter One.

Organized by Colonel Schilling — who now served as the commander of Turner AFB’s 31st Fighter Escort Wing — Fox Peter One kicked off on July 6 when the first of the 31st FEWs three squadrons of F-84Gs headed west from Georgia to Travis. Throughout the following three days, each squadron refueled from KB-29Ps over Texas.

At 1,860 nautical miles and with no alternate landing sites or divert fields, the flight from Travis AFB to Hickam AFB (Territory of Hawaii), was the longest of the trans-Pacific flight. All of the fighters made it and then island-hopped the rest of the way to Yokota Air Base, Japan, via Midway Island, Wake Island, Eniwetok, Guam, and Iwo Jima. The arrival of the last aircraft in Japan on July 16, less than two weeks after leaving Georgia, marked Fox Peter One as a resounding success.

The following October, the 27th FEW from Bergstrom AFB, Texas, replicated the route and in-flight refuelings and relieved the 31st FEW. The 27th FEW’s commander was Col. Donald Blakeslee, another famous World War II pilot and ace.

More record flights followed, including Operation Longstride in October 1953, which saw Colonel Schilling’s wing — now designated the 31st Strategic Fighter Wing — dispatch eight F-84Gs to Nouasseur Air Base, French Morocco. The aircraft covered 3,800 miles in 10 hours and 20 minutes, thanks to in-flight refueling by brand-new SAC KC-97s in the vicinity of Bermuda and the Azores.

Concurrently, Col. Thayer S. Olds, commander of Turner AFB’s 40th Air Division, led 20 F-84Gs of the 508th SFW to RAF Lakenheath, England. Three of the fighters landed at Keflavik, Iceland, because of mechanical problems; however, the remaining aircraft successfully hooked up with the orbiting KC-97 tankers and made it to England in one flight.

In 1957, SAC’s fighter units transferred to Tactical Air Command or were inactivated as part of a reorganization of Air Force strategic and tactical assets. However, they set the standard; by the end of the 1950s, trans-oceanic flights became commonplace. The Air Force never bought another fighter aircraft without in-flight refueling capability; a capability which proved its worth a few years later when Vietnam heated up.


May 10, 2009 Posted by | History | | Leave a comment