Age is just a number: KC-135 celebrates 60th anniversary

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht
  • 108th Wing Public Affairs
The 108th Wing is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the KC-135 Stratotanker August 31. The air refueling aircraft, which has been a steadfast part of the Air Force fleet, was first flown on August 31, 1956.

"It's a great airplane," said Lt. Col. Pete Desautelle, the 141st Air Refueling Squadron Commander. "It was designed a long time ago, but it's a fantastic performer, it's a very strong airplane, and it continues to perform well for us."

The 108th Wing has been flying the KC-135 for 25 years. Some Airmen equate it to owning a classic car.

"The airplane sitting on the ramp looks fast, and when you take that airplane, and you get it airborne, and you pitch up, eight to ten degrees, put it into a thirty degree bank, it's just a majestic looking aircraft. There's no other aircraft that has that profile, it's just dynamic," said Chief Master Sgt. Brian Kilpatrick, 141st Air Refueling Squadron Chief Boom Operator.

"We do notice the age of these airplanes, but we don't let it deter us from going and accomplishing our mission," Kilpatrick continued.

"From the crews to the maintenance folks, we all do our best to get the mission done, so 'age is just a number' as those of us that are fifty-year-olds or better like to think of it as, and the plane is very capable of doing its mission," said Kilpatrick.

The KC-135 has the ability to carry passengers and cargo, while also being able to refuel aircraft. It can also transport patients for aeromedical evacuations.

"Refueling fighters in a combat zone is cool, but transporting patients from Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, back to Germany and then home is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done," said Kilpatrick. "The KC-135 is a very versatile aircraft."

Even though the KC-135 Stratotanker is celebrating its 60th birthday, and is predicted to fly until it reaches 80, it has become a much-loved refueling workhorse for Air Mobility Command.

"My favorite thing about this airplane is its ability to fly long distances or loiter for a long time, "said Desautelle. "The airplane was designed in the early 50's, so that's just after World War II. I think the plans for this aircraft are that it's going to fly for another twenty years."

"To me it demonstrates how strong and how wonderfully designed this airplane was."