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Budget Officer receives ‘incentive’

A 22nd Air Refueling Wing KC-135R Stratotanker prepares to refuel a B-2 Spirit bomber during an incentive flight provided by the 22nd ARW on May 17.

A 22nd Air Refueling Wing KC-135R Stratotanker prepares to refuel a B-2 Spirit bomber during an incentive flight provided by the 22nd ARW on May 17.

Mrs. Mary Borst, 931st Air Refueling Group Budget Officer waves as she waits for the opportunity to see air-to-air refueling during the incentive flight she participated in May 17.

Mrs. Mary Borst, 931st Air Refueling Group Budget Officer waves as she waits for the opportunity to see air-to-air refueling during the incentive flight she participated in May 17.

McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. --
When Lt. Col. James Brock, our maintenance squadron commander asked if I was interested in taking an incentive flight, I immediately responded “Sure – that should be fun” . A few days later I received word from the 22nd Air Refueling Wing that I was chosen for the flight. I had a few concerns – what if I am on the plane and the crew members are from our unit? Oh no – This has not been a good year for money. But I put my worries aside because we received money before the flight and the units had money and Lt. Col. Robert Silvia of the 931st Operations Support Flight told me to count the parachutes before take off to make sure one was mine – that really helped my confidence.
The Turbo 55 Incentive Flight was on May 17 with a show time of 1000L (that means local time not lunar time) Our flight was going to depart at 1207L and be 2.7 hours in duration .
The Great day came for the five of us that were selected to take the Incentive Flight. We reported to the passenger terminal to be processed; that included showing an I.D., getting logged into the computer, paying money for a box lunch, getting some yellow marshmallows (earplugs) to protect our ears and waiting for our escort to take us to the flightline. We are also told to go to the restroom before we departed.
At 1045L the escort came with the van, we made a quick stop by the dining hall to up our box lunches and we were off to the flight line.
We waited in the van until the aircrew was ready for us. A few minutes passed and two military members who are boom operators came to the van to give us our safety briefing.
My only flying experience had been on commercial flights where the flight attendants stand in front of the plane and demonstrate the oxygen mask operation, seat belt usage and emergency exits. This flight briefing was a little different. The boom operators are now our flight attendants and they had to stand outside our van and explain the use of the oxygen mask. The oxygen mask is a little different – it is a plastic bag you put over your head, tighten it around your neck and pull a little ring on this tiny little can and get oxygen for 5 minutes.. Boy was I impressed – 5 minutes, what if we ran out? I was put to ease by the boom operator who will bring me another little can if I needed it. The boom operators explained that we have several different exits in case we needed to use them . We also learned about all the horns and lights that will go off in case of emergencies. Bottom line, if you hear 6 horns we are in real trouble.
After our briefing, the boom operators took us aboard the plane and showed us where we will go to watch the refueling. I had lots of questions and got good answers. The yellow tanks that are lined up above the boom area were not gas we were going to use to put in the other plane; it was oxygen in case we needed it. I found out that gas is stored in the wings, and under the plane. Now that’s lots of gas.
We got to look around at the inside of the plane. Not much to look just a bunch of wires taped together. We did find the restroom. Now I know why it is a good idea to go before we leave home. Boy, how different, a metal box and a couple of large tubes.
It was take-off time – we put in the ear plugs and took a seat that lined the walls of the plane. Even the water jug had its own seat. The seat was not very comfortable, but there was lots of leg room.
There are observation seats that we used to watch the pilots and see what they do while flying. One chair is right behind the pilots and another seat by this escape hatch. We took turns sitting behind the pilots to watch them. The seat belts on the chairs really do hold you in place, but I could still breathe. One pilot would turn a dial and the other one would watch. The pilots have a little white instruction book – probably to know what dial to turn. There was not much to see because the windows are small. I got concerned when I saw a sign that said: “Emergency Exit Rope” above the emergency hatch. I wondered if the rope was over 30,000 feet long if we needed to use it. But again, I was put at ease by the boom operator that told me they use the rope when the plane is on the ground not the air.
We got to go to the boom area and lay on the couches to watch the refueling. These couches could be good afternoon nap areas, but we had work to do. We got to wear headsets to listen in on the conversation of the pilots, boom operator and the B-2 pilot. As the B-2 got close it flipped this cover over on top of the plane – there was no gas cap. The boom operator had to guide the gas nozzle using this joy stick so gas could be pumped into the plane. The boom operator explained that refueling the B-2 is tedious because the boom cannot touch the outside of the plane because it will scratch the plane causing a malfunction in the radar. So the B-2 flew up to the gas nozzle and the boom operator wiggled the gas nozzle back and forth, and we had a connection. What a sight and a thrill. The boom watched a gas gauge to see how much fuel it had dispensed. The B-2 even pushed our plane along. It must have had more power, but we probably saved gas by letting them push us. All the incentive flight folks got to take turns to watch the refueling process.
After about 30 minutes all the fun was over, it was time to fly home. We ate our picnic lunches from the dining hall (not a bad deal for $3.50) and looked at all the pictures we had taken. As we got closer to the ground the temperature in the plane got warmer -- there are no temperature controls so you have to just fan yourself with the evacuation instruction card. The plane tilted side to side, but we had a smooth landing.
We were returned to the processing center in a blue school bus.
The incentive group had a great experience and it is one I will always remember. The flight just reconfirmed that I am so proud to be part of a great Air Force team.