Saturday, November 24, 2012

Media joined 127th Wing Stratotanker crew for A-10C refueling training

By Joachim Jacob, Warthog News Editor

At Selfridge ANGB some media representants had the opportunity to join a 127th Wing KC-135 Stratotanker crew for an A-10C refueling training. Refueled were three "Warthogs" from the 107th Fighter Squadron, 127th Wing (Michigan ANG).

Michigan Air Guard jet pilots show off high-octane fill-up

By Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
November 21, 2012 at 11:15 am

The connection is complete and the A-10 can now start to get fuel from the KC-135. The pilot of the A-10 has to keep in line with the KC-135, despite turbulance, in order to not stress the connection. (Photo by Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

Harrison Township — John Karns says patience is the key to refueling a jet from another jet more than 18,000 feet in the air.

"It can get hairy from time to time, especially with the weather or if there's a lot of turbulence," said Karns, a master sergeant with the Michigan Air National Guard's 127th Wing.

Karns made the comments as he and three fellow guardsmen prepared to conduct a training exercise on a KC-135 Stratotanker at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base. The 127th Wing is the base's host organization.

The crew was joined by six journalists from Metro Detroit, including a photographer and reporter with The Detroit News.

Technical Sgt. Dan Heaton, a spokesman for the 127th Wing, said the organization occasionally invites the media to join guardsmen on training missions when flights are available.

"We also want people to know we're still here and there are still a lot of jobs and opportunities available at Selfridge, particularly for young people," Heaton said.

Earlier this year, the White House was considering cuts to the Air National Guard that would have eliminated more than 700 jobs and a fighter jet unit at the base. In May, Congress spared the base.

The 127th Wing includes about 1,700 guardsmen. It operates eight Stratotankers at Selfridge as well as the A-10 Thunderbolt II, an air-to-ground attack fighter also known as the "Warthog."

The KC-135 Stratotanker is sort of like a flying gas station for U.S. military jets. The craft is more than 136 feet long, has a wingspan of more than 130 feet and can hold about 200,000 pounds of jet fuel, Karns said.

About an hour after takeoff and flying somewhere near Traverse City on a Stratotanker designated as #0346, Karns took his spot.

As boom operator, Karns' job is to hook up the jet's fuel pump nozzle to other aircraft while both jets are in flight. Karns, 53, of New Baltimore, has been a boom operator for four years and a member of the Air National Guard since 1981.

He was on his stomach in front of small windows and the controls for the jet's 30-foot-long refueling boom at the rear of the aircraft.

The controls resemble those of video games, with a joystick for maneuvering the boom. Karns also wore a radio headset that enabled him to communicate with the pilots of the three A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from Selfridge that were being refueled.

The Stratotanker's pilot — Capt. Totsch, who didn't want his first name used for security reasons — said the key to refueling other jets in the sky for him is just keeping his jet steady.

"We just have to maintain a steady course," he said. "And the pilot of the other aircraft and the boom operator do all the work."

"Of course, good weather helps," he said. "A bumpy flight can make it a lot harder."


The picture on top and the following five are from the associated photo gallery Jet-to-jet refueling 18,000 feet in the air (including 12 photos)
Two A-10s maneuvers into position for the mid-air refueling behind the KC-135. (Photo by Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

The A-10 gets into position and then Karns manuevers the boom into the small forward refueling port. Unlike with Navy air-to-air refueling planes, the boom operator makes the final adjustments as opposed to the pilot manuevering the plane into the final connection says Karns. (Photo by Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

The A-10, when connected, is only 30 feet or less from the bottom of the KC-135s with the pilot easily visible through the viewing port. (Photo by Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is done with refueling and clear of the KC-135 Stratotanker with a full tank of gas as it flies over the ceiling of clouds covering Michigan. (Photo by Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

Master Sgt. John Karns shows the viewing window and boom control area under the back of the KC-135 where Karns will be situated, manuevering the boom into the forward refueling port of the A-10. (Photo by Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

Aboard an ANG KC-135 Stratotanker for a refueling mission

By Alan Longstreet Fox 2 News Reporter

Posted: Nov 22, 2012 12:28 AM
Updated: Nov 22, 2012 12:53 AM

HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJBK) -- Selfridge is one of the oldest military air fields in the United States. Recently, I had the opportunity to tag along on a refueling mission that originated from there.

"Today we're flying aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker. This is one of two aircraft flown by the Air National Guard at Selfridge. The other one is the A-10 Thunderbolt II, and we will be refueling those in air a little bit later in today's mission," said Technical Sergeant Dan Heaton with the 127th Wing.

"Selfridge has been an airfield for 95 years. It's one of the oldest airfields in the Air Force. We think it's one of the best airfields in the Air Force."

Those were reassuring words to hear before take off. These, however, we're not.

"This aircraft, this one was built in 1960," Heaton said.

"A lot of U.S. Air Force aircraft come from that era. They're still in operation because we have some of the best aircraft mechanics in the history of the world that work right here at Selfridge."

It sounded like I was in good hands and after a smooth takeoff, it was time for the fun to begin.

"The air refueling mission is like a ballet in the air. There's a lot of teamwork that is involved. The pilots of this aircraft, the boom operator, the pilot of the receiving aircraft, they're all in communication," Heaton explained.

With only 30 feet separating the two aircraft, there is not a lot of room for error.

"The A-10s will come up behind us. We'll put them into position, extend the boom, and as long as they stay where they're supposed to stay, then it'll be real easy," said Master Sergeant John Karns.

And so it went off without a hitch. While this mission was for training purposes, these guys are in constant demand.

"This aircraft is continually in use by the Air Force supporting Air Force operations, Allied operations. Refuelers from Selfridge have been in operation earlier this year -- the Central Command area, which supports operations in Afghanistan, we've been in Germany, we've been in the Estonia, we've been in Guam," said Heaton.

They travel around the world, but many of them live in metro Detroit.

"All the people that work here at Selfridge, they're members of the Michigan Air National Guard, so that means that they are literally your friends and neighbors that come out here, put the uniform on, serve country and state, and we also like to think we serve the community," Heaton told me.

Associated video: Source

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