Team Travis honors 100 years of aerial refueling

  • Published
  • By Chustine Minoda
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

In honor of a century of aerial refueling, a formation of four tanker aircraft departed from Travis AFB to participate in Operation Centennial Contact, conducting a series of air refueling maneuvers in the skies above California and Nevada, June 27, 2023.

To celebrate this significant milestone and critical capability, the U.S. Air Force executed aerial refueling demonstrations throughout the United States and overseas, with 152 total aircraft nationwide made up of 82 tankers and 70 receivers.

“Air refueling propels our Nation’s air power across the skies, unleashing its full potential,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, Air Mobility Command commander. “It connects our strategic vision with operational reality, ensuring we can reach any corner of the globe with unwavering speed and precision. Air refueling embodies our resolve to defend freedom and project power, leaving an indelible mark on aviation history.”

The commemorative flight from Travis AFB was made up of two KC-10 Extenders, assigned to the 6th and 9th Air Refueling Squadrons, Travis AFB, a KC-46 Pegasus, assigned to the 349th ARS, McConnell AFB, Kansas, and a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 912th ARS, March Air Reserve Base, California.

“This milestone showcases not only the Air Force tanker capabilities but how ready we are to execute at any time,” said Capt Gabriel Perez, KC-10 pilot and 60th Operational Support Squadron executive officer. 

On June 27, 1923, U.S. Army Air Service aviators achieved the first-ever aerial refueling. 1st Lts. Virgil Hine and Frank W. Seifert, piloting a DH-4B aircraft, successfully transferred gasoline through a hose to another DH-4B aircraft flying beneath them carrying Capt. Lowell H. Smith and 1st Lt. John P. Richter.

Team Travis honored the legacy of aerial refueling pioneers by flying three different tankers over North Island in San Diego, California, where the first air refueling happened. The formation highlighted both the legacy and modernization of U.S. Air Force tankers.

“Air refueling is a cornerstone of air superiority and joint force operations and will continue to be for the foreseeable future,” said Senior Airman Joshua Grabe, 9th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator. “It cannot be overstated how much confidence I get seeing such complicated coordination come together seamlessly on a regular basis within the joint force.”

Minihan also emphasized the significance of this milestone in a video message to Airmen highlighting the continued focus on strengthening aerial refueling capabilities to enhance rapid global mobility.  

“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.”

In preparation for more advanced tanker operations, Team Travis is gearing up for the arrival of the KC-46 Pegasus aircraft at Travis AFB on July 28, 2023.