Air Refueling Archive

Huge Collection of Air Refueling Pictures

KB-29 Pilot Director Lights

The pilot director light (often referred to as PDLs or PDIs [Pilot Director Indicators]) are seen here swung out from the belly of a KB-29.

Here is an interesting image showing the pilot director lights of the Boeing KB-29. In this image, the director light panel has been swung out from under the belly of the aircraft, presumably for maintenance. The director lights illuminate to give the receiver aircraft’s pilot information on his position in the air refueling envelope. One set of lights indicates his forward-aft position and the other set indicates the up-down position. All subsequent tanker aircraft including the KB-97, KC-135, KC-10, and now KC-30 and KC-46A include a similar arrangement of pilot director lights.

August 8, 2012 Posted by | 1940s, 1950s, KB-29 | | 2 Comments

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 Refueling a RB-45C

A KB-29P from the 91st Air Refueling Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., puts Strategic Air Command's long reach into practice by refueling an RB-45C of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. ( U.S. Air Force photo) Click on image to enlarge.

A KB-29P from the 91st Air Refueling Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., puts Strategic Air Command's long reach into practice by refueling an RB-45C of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. ( U.S. Air Force photo) Click on image to enlarge.

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May 10, 2009 Posted by | 1950s, B-45, External View, KB-29 | , , , | Leave a comment