Archive for Thursday, September 30, 2004

This was a flight to remember

September 30, 2004

I've always loved to fly and I've been on some very interesting flights over the years, but all of those paled in comparison to Friday's jaunt aboard a KC-135 out of Forbes Field in Topeka.

It was a part of our activities during our annual publisher's meetings with the World Company. The meetings were in Lawrence this year and over the years in Colorado or Arizona when they've been there, we've always done something "special" aside from regular sessions.

But, this one was for the books.

Arrangements were made through the Adjutant General of the Kansas Air National Guard for our group to take part in an orientation flight. It was with the 190th Air Refueling Wing of the Guard.

The mission was a refueling practice operation with a B-1 bomber. Yes, that's a B-1 bomber.

It was an incredible experience.

We flew out of Forbes at around 9:30 a.m. Friday. A KC-135 is basically a stripped out 727 with all sorts of military type seating and other equipment. Other than setting in a jump seat instead of normal airline fare, the actual flight was pretty routine. But, you could get up and move about the plane, and I do mean move about.

Basically, it was pretty much empty. We were able to go to the back and check the bay area below where the boom operator does the actual refueling. We could also go all the way to the front and view how the pilots were flying the plane and even listen in to the radio communication. It was fascinating.

But, that couldn't hold a candle to when the B-1 bomber showed up somewhere over South Dakota. It was breath taking to see the stealth come out of nowhere and then be right at the back of the plane.

The refueling operation was just as amazing as the pilot of the bomber and the boom operator talked back and forth, made adjustments and got the two jet planes connected. The nimbleness and maneuverability of the B-1 was like nothing I've ever seen

I will have to say I was surprised, too, in the size of the bomber. Seeing it outside the KC-135, it actually looked small. I was expecting something larger, such as the old B-52s that are so huge.

The bomber pilot refueled and then got unhooked and rehooked several times for practice. All 14 of us were able to watch the process take place during one or the other of the connections.

After he was done, the bomber pilot pulled away and then to the side of us so we could get an even better look. Then, he was gone as quickly as he had arrived.

It was a fabulous experience, unlike anything I'd ever experienced in the air.

But, we weren't quite done. Here we were in South Dakota. Might as well take in the sights. Of course, that means Mount Rushmore. We were given clearance to fly fairly close, certainly not over it, but we were able to see it. I'd always wanted to see Mount Rushmore, but I certainly would have never believed that's how it would happen.

The whole trip was awesome and certainly something that I will never forget.

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