DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- It was an historical day on the flight line at Davis-Monthan Sept. 23, as the last KC-135E model touched down after its final flight. The aircraft that served the Air Force for more than 50 years will now spend its days basking in the sun in the ‘Boneyard’ and providing much needed parts to the rest of the fleet. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jerilyn Quintanilla)
DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Col. Peter Hofelich, 355th Maintenance Group commander, shakes the hand of Lt. Col. Christian Lawlor Sept. 23 after he landed the last KC-135E on Davis-Monthan, where the aircraft will retire after more than 50 years of active service. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jerilyn Quintanilla)
DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Col. John Thomas signs a KC-135 aircraft Sept. 23, after the aircraft landed on Davis-Monthan, where it will now go to retire after more than 50 years of active service. Colonel Thomas is the 101st Maintenance Group commander in the Maine Air National Guard, where the plane has spent the last two decades. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jerilyn Quintanilla)
by Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
9/24/2009 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- It was a historical day on the flight line at D-M Sept. 23, as the last KC-135E model touched down after its final flight. The aircraft that served the Air Force for more than 50 years will now spend its days basking in the sun in the 'Boneyard' and providing much needed parts to the rest of the fleet.
The aircraft, with tail number 56-3630, spent the last couple of decades with the Maine Air National Guard, but has long played a vital role in air superiority for the U.S.
"We are proud of the heritage of this aircraft. This airplane was delivered to active duty in 1958, and has served through the Cold War, went to Vietnam a couple of times and served in the current contingencies," said Col. John Thomas, 101st Maintenance Group commander for the Maine ANG.
Colonel Thomas also said, not only did this aircraft serve in many operations, it also set a speed record in the 50s by flying from New York to London and back in only 12 hours.
While 10 of the E models are being preserved as static displays at various locations and three others are scheduled to be used as ground instructional trainers, it's the end of an era for the air refueling mission as it transitions to the new air-to-air refueling tanker, dubbed the KC-X.
"For the 827th Aircraft Sustainment Group, this is a bittersweet day," said Col. Robert Torick, 827th ACSG commander and project officer for the KC-135E retirement. "While we close this chapter, the air refueling mission story continues. We say goodbye to a real workhorse who has played a critical role in the success of the Air Force mission over the last 50-plus years."
Even though this aircraft has officially been retired it will still play a role in keeping the other KC-135 models in the air.
"It (the aircraft) may be here for another 15 to 20 years as we harvest parts off it," said Col. Tom Schneider, 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group commander. "We are going to put this aircraft to good use. It will go into storage, which means it will be eligible for parts withdrawal to keep the rest of the fleet flying."
Colonel Schneider said the reason why these aircraft that come to AMARG still play an important part after retirement is due in large part to the quality of their upkeep.
"Generations of Airmen have gone to war with this aircraft. It's just amazing how our maintainers keep these aircraft flying for so long," he said.
The Air Force first began air-to-air refueling in the 1920s, but it wasn't until the 1950s that the process became more solidified and practiced mainstream.
9/25/2009 7:16:48 PM ET Any left over contaaminated KC-135's from the Viet Nam era thereI have a friend whose trying to get help with an Agent Orange issue and claims to have been in Nam while some of these aircraft were involved.