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Cadet Senior Airman Brandon Chee flies in a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

posted Dec 20, 2018, 10:18 AM by Scott Carter   [ updated Dec 20, 2018, 10:46 AM ]

SPR 13-11-18
391st Composite Squadron
Group III, Texas Wing
Civil Air Patrol


DALLAS- Cadet Senior Airman Brandon Chee, from Dallas Composite Squadron, traveled to Altus, Oklahoma to fly in a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker on October 2, 2018. Following are Cadet Chee’s thoughts as they happened that day. 

When I first received, out of the blue, an email inviting me to go to Altus Air Force Base to fly on a KC-135, I jumped at the opportunity. Seriously…how many civilians get to fly on military aircraft like the KC-135 Stratotanker, an aerial refueling aircraft? On October 2, the day finally came. I met up with the other two cadets from our squadron that were attending: C/Amn Brandon Luk, and C/SMSgt Walter Costello. After Capt Lana Holub drove for three hours to Altus, Oklahoma in the CAP van, we checked in at our hotel. Cadets and seniors from the Weatherford and Granbury squadrons were also there to partake in the flight. We met them at the Hampton Inn, where we swam with the cadets from the other squadrons, and later, ate as much Pizza Hut as we were able to stomach. The Dallas Dudes had lights off at 2200. We woke up promptly at 0545, and eagerly pulled on our boots and uniforms. The big day had come! 

We got breakfast at the hotel, and then Capt Becky Postma-Kegley, the organizer of the whole excursion, gave us our safety briefing. We hopped back in the CAP van, and we were off to Altus AFB! After a short wait and passing through security, we headed to the briefing room, where we received…you guessed it…a briefing. We then drove to the flight line, where a glorious sight awaited us. C-17s, KC-135s, and more - almost as far as you could see. Boarding the KC-135, we noticed that there were no cushy airline-style seats. Instead, there was a row of netting seats on the side of the plane. This was a first for many of us, because practically all airliners are equipped with forward facing seats. Earlier, in the briefing room, staff had handed us all earplugs. Capt James Farr, our orientator, instructed everyone to put on the earplugs for hearing protection. The KC-135 is equipped with four CFM-56 turbofan engines, each producing up to 21,634 pounds of thrust, adding up to a whopping 86,536 pounds. It was time for takeoff! 

After a rapid climb to our refueling altitude of 21,000 feet, the fun began. A C-17 Globemaster cargo plane roughly twice the size of the KC-135 soon appeared. The boom operator then walked from his seat in the cockpit to the boom operator’s pod, a small place aft of the APUs, on the underbelly of the aircraft. This is where the boom operator works magic. The boom on the back of the KC-135 is 229.66 feet long, when fully extended. Through the boom, fuel flows out at a maximum rate of 6,000 pounds per minute. The KC-135 holds a maximum fuel transfer load of 200,000 pounds. The boom operator then “flies” the boom over to the receiving aircraft, and as soon as the boom is connected, fuel transfer begins. On our flight, we made about 12 contacts with the C-17, and everyone had the chance to lie next to the boom operator and observe the action, sit in the cockpit, put on the headset, and talk to the pilots. About halfway through the flight, another KC-135 appeared above our plane while refueling a F-16, with the other F-16s flying around it. It was a beautiful sight. 

After all the contacts were made, it was time to return to Altus, after an awesome flight of approximately three and a half hours. Another cadet and I received the privilege to sit in the cockpit during landing. The boom operator returned to the navigator’s seat in the cockpit. For most missions that the KC-135 flies, the navigator’s seat remains empty, due to modern technological advances. The pilot in control of the aircraft during landing did an outstanding job, with a beautiful landing. After disembarking from the plane, we took a group photo, and hopped on the bus, back to the terminal. We left Altus AFB after one of the most exciting days of our lives. 

That’s not the end of the story, however. We all rendezvoused at Braum’s Ice Cream and shared a meal before departing back home. We all headed our own separate ways afterwards. But Capt Holub, Cadets Luk and Costello, and I remain connected by the amazing experience we had that day. Altus 2018 will not leave our memories for a very long time. 
Huge thanks to Capt Lana Holub for driving us all the way to Altus and back, to Capt Becky Postma-Kegley organizing the whole trip, and to the aircrew! Without y’all, none of this would have ever happened.