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KC-135, C-17 crews rendezvous for refuel readiness

by Tech. Sgt. Chris Vadnais
Air Force News Agency

6/21/2007 - HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AFPN)  -- A KC-135 aircrew from the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base, Japan flew to Hawaii to meet up with Hickam Air Force Base's C-17 Globemaster III crew to practice in-flight refueling procedures.

Kadena AB's crews don't get many opportunities to work with cargo aircraft like the C-17. At home they work mostly with smaller aircraft like the F-15. Working with larger jets changes the job a bit, said Capt. Mike Rossi, a pilot with the 909th Air Refueling Squadron.

"There's a little bit more weight turbulence from the bough of the C-17," he said

"That pushes us around a little bit more from the back, so we have to take into account for that and just be prepared for any type of breakaway-type situations," Captain Rossi said.

While other pilots look for potential challenges ahead of them, most of the KC-135's work is done from the back of the plane. Receiving aircraft pull up behind the jet and attach to the trailing boom to take fuel.

A boom operator, known as "the boom," is lying face-down in the rear of the aircraft, looking through a window at the receiving aircraft, controlling the fueling process.

Since the KC-135's pilots have no way of seeing what's happening behind their jet, the boom operator is responsible for keeping them informed.

"We basically rely a lot on the boom to tell us where the receiver is," said Capt. Jeff Quick, a 909th ARS pilot.

"If he's approaching too fast or he's just hanging out way back or left or right, or up or down, the boom gives us audio cues of what's going on back there," he said.

The 909th aircrew's visit to Hickam AFB served an additional purpose. They're also preparing for next month's Air Mobility Command Rodeo, a six-day competition focused on readiness.

The AMC Rodeo pits teams against one another in contests of timing and precision. For example, air refueling crews will be given an exact time to cross a point and connect to their receiver.

Hickam AFB's C-17 squadron is participating for the first time this year.

"When you're talking a second or less to reach absolute perfection--and that's what we're really shooting for--I think we're right there," said Maj. Brian Burr, KC-135 pilot and 18th Wing AMC Rodeo Team Chief.

"This experience is really good because it kind of validates the training we've been doing back in Okinawa," said Maj. Burr. "We haven't been with the C-17 but we've been practicing like we thought it was going to work."

"Day one looks like it was a perfect success," he said.

There will be a lot of competition. 45 U.S. teams will participate, including three from the Marine Corps and one from the Coast Guard, as well as international competitors from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Egypt, Germany, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Nineteen other countries are sending observer teams.

Staff Sgt. David Nixon, a 909th ARS boom operator, says he's looking forward to the challenge.

"Oh, we've got a great chance at the rodeo," Sergeant Nixon said.

"I'd say we've got as good a chance as anybody in this," he said.

Kadena crew spent the week here, allowing Hickam's C-17 pilots to get their annual certifications on in-flight refueling

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