KC-135 celebrates 60 years

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Trevor Rhynes
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

On Aug. 31, 1956, “Heartbreak Hotel,” was on the radio and the KC-135 Stratotanker was heard for the first time during its maiden flight.


More than 250 people gathered 60 years later to celebrate the KC-135 as it reached its diamond anniversary, Aug. 31, at the McConnell Air Park.


The event included a formal ceremony, featuring guest speaker Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz, retired Air Education Training Command commander and KC-135 pilot, a flyover featuring a KC-135; a tour of a KC-135; and the opportunity to hear from those involved in transitioning the aircraft for use by the Air Force.


“The KC-135 is the backbone of the tanker fleet, but the Airmen are the heart of the KC-135," said Col. Albert Miller, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander. "Dedicated aircrews, maintainers and support personnel worked countless hours to ensure the readiness of the KC-135 for the past 60 years and will continue to ensure our nation's Global Reach for the many years to come.”


The 22nd Air Refueling Wing took the lead on the celebration as home to the largest stratotanker fleet and home to the first KC-135 to fly, now on display in the McConnell Air Park.


“When one looks for a single common denominator for the success we’ve enjoyed in the Air Force over the last 69 years, it has to be in-flight refueling,” said Lorenz. “I love this great old airplane. It has served our nation well and continues to do so on a daily basis.”


The aircraft has been the backbone of the aerial refueling fleet for decades and will continue to play a role as a refueling aircraft for decades as the Air Force ushers in the next generation of refueling aircraft.


“In light of [McConnell’s] newest mission to bed down the KC-46 Pegasus, I think the KC-135 anniversary event is very timely,” said retired Col. Gary Davis, former KC-135 squadron commander in attendance. “It is a reminder that the air refueling mission continues to be one of the Air Force’s most important, and will likely stay that way for many more decades to come. Our history with the KC-135 shows us that we can expect many years of good service from the KC-46, and no doubt, top units like the 22nd Air Refueling Wing will make that happen.”