Flying with “Gulf 31” at Red Flag 11-2

On January 28, 2011, I was invited to fly with the 147th Air Refueling Squadron in support of Red Flag 11-2.  Our mission was to refuel five F-16 aggressors that were participating in the exercise.

We would be flying a KC-135R from the 134th Air Refueling Wing of the Tennessee Air National Guard.  The crew flying this KC-135R would be from the 147th Air Refueling Squadron (of the 171st Air Refueling Wing) from Pennsylvania Air National Guard.  At the controls were Pilot Major Janet Lynn Van Dyke and Co-Pilot Lieutenant Colonel Rick May. The boom operator (“boomer”) for today’s mission was Staff Sergeant Ken Teyssier. Our call sign for today’s mission would be GULF 31.

Also on board were Public Affairs Airmen’s First Class Cynthia Haughton and Whitney Jackson who would serve as our escorts for the flight.

Major Van Dyke started the engines at 1039 hours and had us airborne at 1109. It took us about 30 minutes to get on station. Once on stations, Major Van Dyke flew at 20,000 feet and in a race track pattern of 20 miles by 10 miles.

64th Agressors waiting their turn for gas.

64th on the boom.

At 1152 hours, four F-16s from the 64th Aggressor Squadron based at Nellis formed up on the rear left side of our aircraft to begin their refueling cycle.  One by one, each F-16 slid from the left side of the aircraft to underneath the boom. Once under GULF 31, Staff Sergeant Teyssier would direct the receiving aircraft to the boom. After receiving their fuel, each aircraft would back off the boom and form up on the rear right side of the KC-135. By 1215, the flight of F-16s had finished “tanking” and departed. Our next refueling wouldn’t be until 1315 when we were scheduled to refuel a single F-16.

To our surprise at 1316 hours, a two ship formation of F-16s arrived. One F-16 was from the 64th Aggressor Squadron and the other was from the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing.  After both F-16s refueled, they backed away from the refueling boom, “posed” for a few formation pictures, and then departed.

Major Van Dyke at the controls of Gulf 31.

With our mission complete, Major Van Dyke began the return flight back to Nellis. On the flight back, an unknown aircraft declared an in flight emergency which caused the closure one of Nellis’ runways. This caused us to orbit for an extra 20 minutes before we were cleared to land.

During our 3 hour flight, the crew refueled six F-16s, transferring approximately 30,000 pounds of fuel (approximately 5,000 pounds to each fighter).

Gulf 31 crew (left to right) - Major Janet Lynn Van Dyke, Lieutenant Colonel Rick May, and Senior Master Sergeant Ken Teyssler.

I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to the crew of GULF 31 – Pilot Major Janet Lynn Van Dyke, Co-Pilot Lieutenant Colonel Rick May, and Boom Operator Staff Sergeant Ken Teyssier.  They did an outstanding job during this mission and were more than accommodating to the photographers onboard.  It was my honor to fly with the crew of GULF 31.

Airmen First Class Cynthia Haughton (right) and Airmen First Class Whitney Jackson.

I would like to offer a special thanks to Public Affair’s Senior Airman Michael Charles who was instrumental in making this air to air opportunity possible. An additional thanks goes out to our escorts for the flight, Airmen’s First Class Cynthia Haughton and Whitney Jackson.

More photos of the GULF 31 flight can be found in the Military Aviation Journal Photo Gallery.