Into the Belly of the Beast
7 images Created 31 Aug 2010
On Thursday, other members of the media and I were given the rare opportunity to fly aboard a KC-135R Stratotanker in Spokane tasked with the mission to refuel the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds en route to Fairchild Air Force Base. As we strapped into the nylon mesh seating, crew members moved about the cramped fuselage with a sense of purpose and calm composure prior to the precise operation about to be undertaken. With close communication between the pilot, co-pilot, and boom operator, over the deafening roar of the jet's engines, the KC-135R's crew delivered the necessary fuel to allow the red, white and blue adorned F-16s to carry on to their final destination. The Thunderbirds, executing the aerial refueling maneuvers with grace and efficiency, were filled up in a matter of minutes flying at 30,000 feet over Washington and proceeded to perform reconnaissance exercises in the area. The Thunderbirds, along with numerous other planes will be in action on Saturday and Sunday's Skyfest 2010 at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane. After a rocky, turbulent approach to the runway, the KC-135R finally came to a halt on the hot tarmac. Pilot Maj. Craig Gural bid farewell to the 20 photographers, videographers and reporters aboard the plane and began to debrief with his three-man crew. Another successful mission in the books.