Memories of a KC-135


At 3:30am, I was way ahead of the sun that day. I had to get up early if I was going to get to Chanute Air Force Base in time for the flight. I was 14, and a member of the Civil Air Patrol. My group was invited to go along on a re-fueling mission. We arrived on time, went through security, and soon we were on-board a KC-135. As I looked around, I wondered where we were going to sit, as I didn't see any seats. One of the airmen pointed to the straps along the sides. At that time I had never flown on any plane before, let alone a military aircraft. We strapped-in, the plane took off, and our mission was underway. There were about a dozen in our CAP group. After what seemed like a couple hours, we were now over the Gulf of Mexico. Our group leader told us to come to the back of the plane. In the very end of the tail section, were three windows on the floor. The center position was for the boom operator, and the other two - one on each side - was for observers. We each got to take turns laying down in one of the observation bays and watch as we refueled another plane, which happened to be another KC-135. It turns out it was a practice run; we re-fueled them, and then they re-fueled us.

I had since learned that the KC-135 was used for a number of things including astronaut training, where the plane is flown in various parabolas to simulate zero and low gravity.

We've all heard the phrase, "Don't look down", but thinking back about what it felt like to be 35,000 feet in the air and looking down, I have to say - sometimes it's ok.

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