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108th ARW pilot flies last of its kind

Oct. 3, 2009 -- Under sunny blue skies and a warm autumn day, the last KC-135E Stratotanker made its final flight on Sept. 23 from the Maine Air National Guard base at Bangor, Maine to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
Piloted by Lt. Col. Christian Lawlor, a pilot with the 108th Air Refueling Wing out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; the KC-135E aircraft will be retired at Davis-Monthan's "Boneyard."
The KC-135 aircraft were the first jet-powered aerial refueling tankers of the U.S. Air Force and entered service in 1957. The aircraft were originally tasked to refuel strategic bombers and were used extensively during the Vietnam War and later operations such as the current Global War on Terrorism.
The retirement of the KC-135E model aircraft began in 2004 and currently ended in September 2009 when Lt. Col. Lawlor landed the last aircraft, with tail number 56-3630, on the tarmac of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
The efforts to complete the retirements of more than 100 KC-135E model aircraft have been a team approach. Lacking qualified aircrews for this model, tasked units from the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve components had to maintain dual qualified aircrews to support movement of these aircraft, while maintaining their day-to-day missions, deployments and high ops tempo support.
Even though the KC-135E model has flown its last mission, the aircraft will not be enjoying full retirement anytime yet. Some of the retired aircraft will be stripped of usable parts and equipment as needed to keep the remaining KC-135 fleet airborne.
In addition, 10 of the E models are being preserved as static displays throughout various locations. Three other aircraft will be used at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, to train future Airmen on maintaining and operating the KC-135 fleet.
After more than 50 years of service, the workhorse of the U.S. Air Force bowed its wings and gingerly rolled into the "Boneyard" to rest among the other retired aircraft.
Some information for this article was derived from a 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs' article published on Sept. 24, 2009.