107th Airlift Wing Bids Goodbye to Last Tanker
By Lt. Col. Deanna Miller, 107th Airlift Wing
/ Published June 30, 2008
Niagara Falls, NY -- Fuzzy 01 cleared for takeoff. The KC-135R Stratotanker rolled down runway 28 Right for its final takeoff out of Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station with the 107th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard, ending the unit's legacy as an air refueling wing.
The aircraft commander pushed the throttles up, the airspeed increasing as the aircraft rolled down the runway. The pilot pulled back on the yoke as the tanker accelerated. Soon it was airborne circling around for one last low approach over the familiar airfield. As many unit members peered towards the overcast sky, they waved goodbye as this tanker flew its "fini" flight with the 107th AW piloted by the wing's commander, Col. Patrick Ginavan.
The tanker climbed out on course for its destination, Scott AFB, Ill. There it would join other members of the Niagara fleet, at the 126th Air Refueling Wing, Illinois Air National Guard to continue to faithfully serve its country. With over 18,000 hours and 14 years of service with the New York Air National Guard, this tanker was instrumental in offloading millions of pounds of fuel to aircraft all over the world. World contingencies included Operations Deny Flight, Decisive Endeavor, Northern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
On the home front, this tanker was flown by 107th AW members to support the Northeast Tanker Task Force, taking off of the same runway to refuel aircraft deploying to and from the Middle East and Europe. Once these missions were complete, crews would return to Niagara where the aircraft would be readied for another mission. This was a 24/7 commitment. It was ready any time of the day or night, any day of the week to fly its air refueling mission. Additionally, the tanker flew many missions supporting Operation Noble Eagle and flying supplies to victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Like many missions before, this aircraft leveled off at its final cruise altitude, flight level 380 for this mission. It was headed westbound following its flight planned route. The tanker continued as the miles clicked below, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana then Illinois. The flight management system read seventy miles to the next waypoint, more than half way to its destination. Time passed as the pilots changed frequencies with each change of airspace, updated the flight management system, managed the fuel and guided the aircraft to its new home. The hour and a half flight would almost be complete.
The aircraft commander called for the descent checklist to prepare for the tanker's descent to this new airfield that would be called home. The boom operator checked off to the back to perform his checklist. The pilot computed the landing data as they reviewed and briefed the instrument approach to runway 32 Right at Scott AFB, Ill. The altitude hold was disengaged once the crew was cleared for the descent. The pilot retarded the throttles and slowly began his descent for the approach. In and out of the clouds, avoiding thunderstorms, course alive, the pilot was stabilized on the instrument approach. Flaps 20 degrees, flaps 30, gear down, flaps 40, final approach fix, flaps 50. Approach and landing check complete. Safety check right, safety check left.
Fuzzy 01 cleared to land. The tanker touched down uneventfully. It was its last landing by a 107th pilot, Lt. Col. Robert Kilgore, 136 Airlift Squadron Commander. "Flying the tanker was fantastic experience," stated Kilgore. "It took me all over the world, but now that chapter has ended and I am ready to begin a new chapter, flying the C-130."