KC-135 performs last time during UTA
By Tech. Sgt. Abigail Klein, Tech. Sgt. Abigail Klein
/ Published June 12, 2020
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
Members of the 931st Air Refueling Wing gathered on the flightline June 6 to honor the KC-135R Stratotanker flight to train during a Unit Training Assembly. Though this was not the last time a 931 ARW aircrew would fly a KC-135, the flight marked the end of a long history with the KANZA Warriors who witnessed it.
The KC-135, tail number #58-0124, departed McConnell early in the morning as the lead tanker of a combined four-ship formation including three KC-46’s. The KC-135 aircrew flew to Texas to refuel it sister Reserve unit, 301st Fighter Wing at Carswell Air Reserve Base, out of Fort Worth, Texas.
The pilots included Lt. Col. Jonathan Flores, Maj. Chris Foote, Capt. Derrick Lopez and 2nd Lt. Ben Stone from the 18th Air Refueling Squadron. Master Sgt. Clay Dotson, 905th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, performed air refueling on the flight.
"Knowing it was the last 135 UTA training sortie, I think of all the past and present members who I’ve had the privilege of serving and flying this amazing aircraft with," he said. "We’re now turning the page to a new chapter in the 931 ARW, with a new weapons system and the capabilities it will bring to the fight."
To increase the amount of KC-46A Pegaus aircrew training and air refueling, the three flying squadrons of the 931 ARW will no longer fly the KC-135 during UTAs. This is all part of the continuing familiarization and operations testing that began with arrival of the first KC-46 in January of 2019.
Since the stand-up of the 931st Air Refueling Group at Team McConnell in 1995, the KC-135 has been the workhorse of the McConnell’s Reserve and active duty flying squadrons. Along with its members, it has travelled worldwide and been part of the major forces defending the United States.
Now, after 25 years, many flying hours and a number of military operations, the tanker still continues to serve the 931 ARW and the 22nd Air Refueling Wing to protect its members and the Nation; it’s presence on the flightline shrinking only to make way for more KC-46s.
"It's definitely the end of an era for our flight crews, but our Reservists are ready," said Col. Kevin Rainey, 931st Operations Group commander. "Our Reserve aircrews are more than prepared and although the KC-135 workhorse is an amazing aircraft, it is time to fully commit to the KC-46 during our UTAs."
The 931 ARW is the first associate Reserve unit to fly and maintain the new KC-46A. The first Reserve squadron to the fly the KC-46A, the 924th Air Refueling Squadron, stood up at McConnell in 2017 to prepare ahead of time.
The KC-46A will eventually replace the U.S. Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers which have been the backbone of the refueling fleet for more than 50 years. The KC-46A will provide more refueling capability, an increased capacity for cargo, and modern aeromedical evacuation capabilities.