☷First Stratotanker inducted into Air Force museum
National Guard ( By Press Release office)
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WRIGHT - PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE , Ohio – Aircrew members were on the brink of tears as they soared over Wright - Patterson Air Force Base April 30 , knowing their most cherished aircraft would be the first KC - 135 Stratotanker inducted into the National Museum of the U . S . Air Force . Down below , aviation enthusiasts from around the nation were gathered along the museum’s sparsely used runway . The enthralled audience members , many with personal or family ties to the KC - 135 , were waiting to cheer the arrival of the Hawaii Air National Guard’s most historic aircraft and interact with tanker crews from the past and present . The Stratotanker , numbered 60 - 0329 , has been an integral part of the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron since 1993 . But it also earned a more global reputation while under the care of its previous stewards during the Vietnam War era . It’s recognized as the first refueling platform to be awarded the McKay Trophy in 1967 , an honor reserved for aviators who demonstrate the highest skill levels by performing the ‘most meritorious flight of the year . ’The 203rd ARS pilots at the helm descended for a crowd - pleasing low - level approach before looping around for a landing . Wheels contacted the ground , and the KC - 135R slowly came to a halt; 0329’s career was finally over . With more than six decades of operational service , the jet took merely a moment to become a national artifact in the museum . Lt . Col . Kelly Church , 203rd ARS commander , found himself at a loss for words as he killed engines from the aircraft’s left driver seat . After a deep inhale , he uttered the final words to be spoken through its communication system , ‘0329 , thank you for your service . ’ Church said the moment was overwhelming for him and his team , as they reflected on the countless lives and operations the aircraft had affected throughout its service . In recognition of 0329’s final voyage , the crew was accompanied by senior leadership . Maj . Gen . Duke A . Pirak , deputy director , Air National Guard , was in the cockpit jump seat , and the 154th Wing command team joined the mission - essential maintenance crew members in the cabin . While 0329’s last crew shared an intimate connection with their prized ‘tanker , ’ they were greeted by an entourage of veterans and family members whose livelihoods were also once deeply intertwined with the historic aircraft . But most notable of all in attendance were the guests of honor – original crew members who took home the McKay Trophy more than 50 years ago . Retired pilots Lt . Col . Richard Trail and Lt . Col . John Casteel and retired crew chief Senior Master Sgt . Jack Barnes are legends in the Air Force tanker community for executing the world’s first tri - level refueling procedure , believed to have saved the lives of several U . S . Navy pilots . While conducting wartime refueling in the Gulf of Tonkin in May 1967 , the crew responded to an emergency refueling request from six Navy planes: two A - 3 Skywarriors , two F - 8 Crusaders and two F - 4 Phantoms . As they refueled one of the A - 3s , one of the F - 8s ran critically low on fuel . The KC - 135 guided the F - 8 to the A - 3’s refueling boom and daisy - chained a refueling process from the KC - 135 to the A - 3 to the F - 8 . The bold actions of the Stratotanker crew ensured that all aircraft were able to return to their aircraft carrier safely . “Being able to spend time with the McKay Trophy crew and seeing them being reunited with their aircraft was truly something special , ” said Church . “One of the original crew chiefs who worked on the jet in Thailand said it looked better than it did in 1968 . ”Throughout the gathering , Senior Master Sgt . Paul Foster , 154th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief and the last crew member to disembark the aircraft in an operational capacity , spent most of his time alongside Barnes , discussing memories of the jet . Of all the ‘nooks and crannies’ the two revisited , the two crew chiefs discovered they both stored king crab and lobster in the same underbelly compartment , where the altitude kept food cold during their excursions . “All these little things , especially the technical ones , you never forget , ” said Barnes . “Even though it’s been so long since I’ve worked on it , I’m feeling confident that I can go through the steps of preflighting it right now . It means a lot to me to see that it’s been in great hands all these years . It’s looking just as slick as ever . ”Apart from 0329’s paint scheme , most of the KC - 135’s components have remained unchanged for 60 years . The aircraft was branded with a specific star decal on its tail flash after transferring to the Hawaii ANG in 1993 . The ‘Hoku , ’ meaning star in the Hawaiian language , represents the stars Polynesians would use as reference points to navigate the Pacific Ocean . Tanker 0329 was also given the nickname Kapea , one of the many titles attributed to the Southern Cross constellation . The National Museum of the U . S . Air Force will preserve the aircraft in its present form . In honor of the aircraft’s heritage , a legacy decal reading ‘Young Tiger Task Force’ was permanently attached to the nose , signifying its original unit and the air refueling forerunners who answered their call aboard Tanker 0329 . Stratankers today continue to remain the U . S . Air Force’s most widely used air refueling platform . And with the induction of 0329 , the tanker community is finally represented . “Nowadays , global reach means everything in the Air Force , ” said Brig . Gen . Dann S . Carlson , 154th Wing commander , during the induction ceremony . “And I cannot think of a more powerful example to showcase what global reach really is other than 0329 . It is truly my honor and privilege to share this gift of Aloha with our country , and I hope that it inspires a strong and resilient force for generations to come . ”
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