Tankers to Fly Over Salina

A couple of refueling aircraft will make a low pass over Salina as part of a nationwide event this week.

The United States Air Force invites the American public to observe flyovers of air refuelers over all 50 states, June 27, honoring 100 years of air refueling.

According to the Air Force, the Kansas portion of this global flyover effort comes from McConnell Air Force Base’s 22nd Air Refueling Wing and 931st Air Refueling Wing. Both units will fly over 3 missions focusing on Kansas, Colorado and California.

The Kansas mission consists of the Air Force Reserve’s 931st ARW flying a KC-46A Pegasus from McConnell, accompanied by a KC-135R Stratotanker from the Guard’s 190th Air Refueling Wing at Forbes Field in Topeka. The flight plan for June 27 will put these two aircraft over the following landmarks:

  • 10:23 a.m., Lawrence – University of Kansas, downtown
  • 10:28 a.m., Topeka – Kansas State Capitol
  • 10:38 a.m., Manhattan – Kansas State University
  • 10:52 a.m., Salina – KSU Aerospace and Technology Campus
  • 11:15 a.m., Wichita – Wichita State University
  • 11:16 a.m., Wichita – Downtown and Keeper of the Plains

The times provided approximate, and the aircraft will fly over these locations at 2,000 to 2,500 feet above ground level.  After the flyovers, the aircraft will then participate in air refueling operations, but at a much higher altitude.

Air refueling is the practice of transferring jet fuel from one aircraft to another in mid-flight. The aircraft providing the fuel is also known as a ‘tanker’ which effectively serves as a gas station in the sky.

The 22nd ARW will also fly several aircraft over Colorado, flying over landmarks in Pueblo, Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy.  The 22nd ARW will also send one KC-46 to California, to participate in a mission flyover over the base where the first air refueling took place a century ago – Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.

With 100 years of experience, today’s Air Force air refueling capabilities deliver unrivaled rapid Global Reach for United States and our Allies and partners through the mobility air forces fleet of KC-46, KC-135 and KC-10 tankers. Aerial refueling serves as a force multiplier, increasing the speed, range, lethality, flexibility and versatility of combat aircraft. Tankers also carry cargo and passengers, perform aeromedical evacuations, and enable strategic deterrence for the United States.

“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.”

Innovation and tenacity, hallmark characteristics of Airmen throughout the service’s history, delivered the game-changing capability, once deemed impossible.

In the continued pursuit of advanced capabilities and increased endurance, U.S. Army Air Service aviators pulled off the impossible on June 27, 1923. On that day, 1st Lt. Virgil Hine and 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert, flying a DH-4B biplane, passed gasoline through a hose to another DH-4B flying beneath it carrying Capt. Lowell H. Smith and 1st Lt. John P. Richter, accomplishing the first aerial refueling.

One hundred years later, the Air Force celebrates these Airmen’s tenacity and innovative will that is still thriving In Airmen’s spirits today.

This critical capability is essential for the Department of Defense’s most vital missions. To remain relevant in the current and future security environments, the Air Force is in the process of recapitalizing its tanker fleet with the ongoing acquisition of the KC-46A and accelerating its pursuit of the next-generation air refueling system, announced in March – propelling forward the capability developed and entrusted to Airmen a century ago.

 “As we embark on the next 100 years of air refueling, we will continue to strengthen our air mobility excellence,” said Minihan. “We must leverage the remarkable capabilities of air refueling to preserve peace, protect freedom, and bring hope to the world. As Mobility Airmen, we write the next chapter of air refueling.”

McConnell Air Force Base, being the first KC-46 operating base, has been writing that next chapter in air refueling with the KC-46 since it got its first KC-46 tankers in January 2019. McConnell also operates 18 KC-135 tanker aircraft. Both aircraft types at McConnell are available for worldwide taskings and both are currently supporting worldwide operations today.

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US Air Force Photos