This isn’t the kind of review that AirlinesAndDestinations.com usually publishes, but when I got the chance to fly with the U.S. Air Force Reserve...

This isn’t the kind of review that AirlinesAndDestinations.com usually publishes, but when I got the chance to fly with the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command’s 514th Air Mobility Wing on a mission to refuel four F-15C fighters, I jumped at it.


The occasion was a special flight on August 14 by one of the U.S. Air Force’s McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender tankers, which departed from American Airlines’ Terminal 8 at New York JFK.

Based at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) in New Jersey, the KC-10A flew this mission from American’s Terminal 8 at JFK for a number of reasons. A primary reason was to promote to media – and thus the public – the 2012 Air Force Week, this year being held in and around New York City from August 18 through August 21.

(To see a full schedule of 2012 Air Force Week events, including three flyovers of areas of New York City by the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds F-16 aerobatics team, and one flyover by one or more F-22 Raptors, visit www.airforceweek.af.mil.)

In this photograph, McDonnell Douglas KC-10A 86-0035 sits attached to a jetway at American Airlines’ Terminal 8 at New York JFK on August 14, 2012, prior to a refueling flight which carried guests from American Airlines and media representatives

 

Another key reason was to honor American Airlines: thousands of the airline’s employees are members of the U.S. Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard.

Additionally, American has provided more than 3,200 flight tickets to both active and retired U.S. military personnel and their immediate families who need to travel by air for medical, counseling and rehabilitation needs.

Through Air Compassion for Veterans (ACV), a non-profit partnership between American’s Fuel Smart and Veterans Initiatives teams, American provides funds to buy air tickets for military personnel by donating a portion of the money it saves on fuel as a result of  the Fuel Smart program.

An American Airlines Boeing 767-300ER fitted with Blended Winglets taxis in towards its gate at American’s Terminal 8 at New York JFK

 

Fuel Smart, which American Airlines launched in 2005, is an initiative led by its employees to reduce fuel usage throughout the airline, both in the air and on the ground. To date, the various employee-generated suggestions which Fuel Smart has implemented have saved American well over $1.5 billion in fuel costs and well over 700 million gallons of fuel, reducing the company’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 6.25 million tons in the process.

After a short ceremony in which several senior officers from the Air Force Reserve and executives of American Airlines spoke, the media group and other invited guests boarded the KC-10A, which had the U.S. Air Force serial number 86-0035 and was drawn up at the jetway at Terminal 8’s Gate 12.

A crew from the 78th Air Refueling Squadron of the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 514th Air Mobility Wing (‘The Freedom Wing’) was operating the flight. This wing – which also operates Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft, through its 732nd Airlift Squadron – operates alongside the active-duty 305th Air Mobility Wing at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

Members of the KC-10’s U.S. Air Force Reserve crew demonstrate the standard pre-flight safety drill to civilian passengers on board the aircraft for a refueling mission on August 14, 2012

 

This arrangement means the 305th’s 34 KC-10As and 13 C-17s get much more fully utilized than they otherwise would. The 514th is the only Air Force Reserve unit which operates the KC-10.

Although a routine, short-haul KC-10 refueling mission only involves a crew of about six – the two pilots, the flight engineer (the KC-10 has a three-crew cockpit), a crew chief from the maintenance ground crew and the boom operator – this special flight had a much larger crew on board.

This was mainly to make sure the questions of the reporters and other passengers were answered and that the civilians could be shepherded quickly in and out of the cockpit and boom operator’s compartment. It was also to ensure that they remained in their seats during crucial parts of the maneuvering needed for refueling to take place.

On a hot and humid summer day (during which New York JFK was experiencing near-tropical conditions), water vapor pours from the KC-10’s air-conditioning system after its engines begin providing internal power to the aircraft

 

Commanding the mission (but not flying as one of the two pilots) was Major Scott Kadar. The pilot in command was U.S. Air Force Reserve Maj. Mike Capodicasa, in his civilian job a Boeing 747-400 Freighter captain with Atlas Air. The co-pilot was Captain Anthony Cannon.

Also listed as crew on the flight – though there were some additional personnel whose names I couldn’t catch – were flight engineers Senior Master Sergeant Wayne Hanna; MSgt. Alan Crosby; and Technical Sergeant Lionel Naraidu.

For more on the special KC-10A flight, see Page 2

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