Air Refueling celebrates 100 years with flyovers

  • Published
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – McConnell is conducting a series of flyovers over several locations June 27 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Aerial Refueling.

This event commemorates the groundbreaking achievement of the first aerial refueling mission, accomplished on June 27, 1923, by 1st Lt. Virgil Hine and 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert.

“The first air refueling mission was literally pilots dangling a hose from their aircraft and they were able to transfer 75 gallons of fuel at that point,” said Capt. Paxton Petitpas, project officer for McConnell’s participation in Centennial Contact. “That paved the way for what we have today in modern air refueling, which is literally the logistical bridge for the Air Force and cornerstone of our global reach.”

McConnell Air Force Base's 22nd and 931st Air Refueling Wings will participate in the flyover mission, focusing on Kansas, Colorado and California.

In Kansas, the 931st ARW will conduct the mission with a KC-46A Pegasus from McConnell AFB, accompanied by a KC-135R Stratotanker from the Kansas Air National Guard's 190th ARW, stationed at Forbes Field in Topeka.

The flight plan will take these aircraft over several landmarks in Kansas:

  •  Lawrence: 10:23 a.m., The University of Kansas, Downtown
  •  Topeka: 10:28 a.m., Capitol Building and Downtown
  • Manhattan: 10:38 a.m., Kansas State University
  • Salina: 10:52 a.m., KSU Aviation Campus, Kansas Wesleyan University
  • Wichita: 11:15 a.m., Wichita State University
  • Wichita: 11:16 a.m., Downtown and Keeper of the Plains

The 22nd ARW will deploy multiple aircraft over Colorado, performing flyovers above landmarks in Pueblo, Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy.

For Colorado part of this global flyover effort, McConnell will launch a KC-46 and a KC-135 over several landmarks and cities over the Front Range, in the following order:

  • Pueblo: 12:18 p.m., Pueblo Memorial Airport, Doss Aviation
  • Colorado Springs: 12:24 p.m., Garden of the Gods and Downtown
  • Air Force Academy: 12:26 p.m.
  • Denver: 12:34 p.m., Capitol Building, Coors Stadium, Downtown
  • Boulder: 12:39 p.m., University of Colorado Boulder
  • Fort Collins: 12:45 p.m., Colorado State University, Downtown

Times are approximate and can shift due to required airspace clearance. The aircraft are scheduled to fly at about 2,500 feet above ground level.

The tankers will refuel two F-16 Fighting Falcons on this mission, at a higher altitude and after flying over the various sites along the Front Range.

Additionally, one KC-46 from the 22nd ARW will participate in a mission over California.

Aerial refueling has significantly impacted the Air Force's global reach for the past 100 years. It enhances the speed, range, lethality, flexibility, and versatility of combat aircraft, serving as a force multiplier. In addition to their primary role, air refuelers can support cargo, transport passengers, aeromedical evacuations, and strategic deterrence for the United States.

"Air refueling propels our nation's air power across the skies, ensuring we can reach any corner of the globe with unwavering speed and precision,” said General Mike Minihan, commander of Air Mobility Command. “It embodies our commitment to defend freedom and project power, leaving an indelible mark on aviation history."

Recognizing the importance of air refueling in vital defense missions, the Air Force is actively modernizing its tanker fleet. The acquisition of the KC-46A and the pursuit of the next-generation air refueling system exemplify the commitment to advancing capabilities established a century ago.

"We must leverage the remarkable capabilities of air refueling to preserve peace, protect freedom, and bring hope to the world,” said Minihan. “As Mobility Airmen, we write the next chapter of air refueling."

McConnell Air Force Base, serving as the first KC-46 operating base, has been at the forefront of air refueling. Operating KC-46s since January 2019, alongside 18 KC-135 aircraft, McConnell continues to support worldwide operations into the 2nd century of Air Refueling.