Iowa ANG performs flyovers in Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota as Air Force marks 100 years of Air Refueling

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
  • 185th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The chances of seeing a mid-air refueling over the United States on Tuesday were high, as the Air Force flew low during, nationwide demonstrations commemorating air refueling’s 100th anniversary.

While air refueling is performed regularly, the task is normally done at very high altitudes and restricted to designated tracks where it is often unseen and unheard.

“It is exciting for us here in Sioux City because we get to display what we do every day,” said Capt. Braden Christensen who works as a KC-135 pilot with the Iowa Air National Guard.

Christensen is one of the aircrew members from Iowa’s 185th Air Refueling Wing who piloted an Iowa Air National Guard KC-135 aircraft during the one-day “Operation Centennial Contact” event.

The event was the brainchild the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command as a way to mark the 100th year of since the advent of mid-air refueling.

“Air refueling propels our Nation’s air power across the skies, unleashing its full potential,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, Air Mobility Command commander in a release about the event.

According to the National Museum of the Air Force the first successful air refueling took place on June 27, 1923. 

This week’s event had over 150 aircraft participating with KC-135, KC-10 and KC-46 refueling aircraft along with receiving aircraft. Air refuelers from the U.S. Air Force, Reserve and National Guard performed flyovers at major landmarks, population centers and state capitols in all 50 states.

VIDEO | 10:38 | Iowa and South Dakota ANG perform flyovers marking 100 years of air refueling

On the eve of Independence Day weekend, the event also served to celebrate American independence through ingenuity that comes with the freedom to innovate.

“Air refueling embodies our resolve to defend freedom and project power, leaving an indelible mark on aviation history,” Minihan added in his release.

As a kind of abbreviated summer vacation, the Iowa Airmen completed their three-state tour in just a few hours.  The 185th crew flew their Stratotanker over several landmarks and popular family vacation spots in Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota.

An F-16 from South Dakota’s 114th Fighter Wing tagged along with the KC-135 on their trip that began in Sioux City, Iowa as the jets flew over the 185th’s home base.

The route had the Air Guard aircraft quickly moving west over South Dakota’s state capitol in Pierre, before making their way to the South Dakota Badlands, Mount Rushmore and eventually back to Sioux Falls.

Before heading back to the central time zone however, the aircraft turned north and passed over Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota as well as their state capitol in Bismarck.

In Iowa, onlookers in Okoboji had a rare view of the military aircraft as they flew low over Iowa’s Great Lakes. Before returning to Sioux City the final venue had the jets above Ames as they passed over the Iowa State University campus and Jack Trice stadium.

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