McConnell Reservists participate in ‘unmanned’ flight

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Abigail Klein
  • 931st Air Refueling Wing

On the morning of April 9, an aircrew of five from the 18th Air Refueling Squadron gathered to fly a ‘tanker’ into the sky.  Though their operation was standard operations at McConnell, the manning of the flight was anything but.

That’s because the aircrew consisted of only women: Four KC-135 Stratotanker pilots, Lt. Col. Suzie Jones, Maj. Suzanne Crespo Valentin, Maj. Monica Riggs, Capt. Sarah Cassman, and one boom operator, Tech. Sgt. Sarajo Danis. Lt. Col. Suzie Jones, 18 ARS director of operations and a KC-135 pilot, organized the aircrew.

“With as many sorties and [temporary dutys] as we have, and also compared to the low percentage of female aircrew, it is extremely rare to have an all-female flight,” said Jones. “The odds alone make it significant, but it also gives the mission a totally different vibe because it’s just us girls.”

During the flight, the crew performed air refueling for F-16 Fighting Falcon student pilots from the 54th Fighter Squadron out of Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.  The boom, Danis made more than 12 contacts with the five F-16s.  Danis, a Traditional Reservist, has been at McConnell for eight years, and enjoyed the experience of taking part in the all-female flight.

“I think it’s exciting to think about everyone on our two platforms working together to achieve such a precise goal—two airplanes going hundreds of miles an hour at the same time and space,” said Danis.

Though they certainly weren’t the first all-female aircrew in the Air Force, nor even from McConnell, for the crew, the five-hour flight experience was still a unique experience.

 “Someday an all-female flight will be common place-but until then, it’s our honor to be an inspiration to someone to dream without boundaries,” said Riggs, 18 ARS chief pilot.