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Michigan Flyovers Honor 100 Years of Aerial Refueling

  • Published
  • By 127th Wing Public Affairs
  • 127th Wing

The Michigan Air National Guard will conduct flyovers of nine Michigan communities on June 27, as part of the United States Air Force’s commemoration of 100 years of aerial refueling excellence.

Tuesday’s flyovers will allow Michigan residents to witness this key aspect of the Air Force mission as KC-135 Stratotankers fly in formation with A-10 Thunderbolt IIs over the following locations:

  • Blue Water Bridge, Port Huron, approximately at 10:20 a.m.
  • Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and downtown Alpena, approximately at 10:40 a.m.
  • Mackinac Bridge and Mackinaw City, approximately at 10:50 a.m.
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes area near Maple City, approximately at 11:15 a.m.
  • Downtown Grand Rapids, approximately at 11:45 a.m.
  • Battle Creek Air National Guard Base and Battle Creek, approximately at 11:55 a.m.
  • The Michigan State Capitol and downtown Lansing, approximately at 12:05 p.m.
  • The Detroit River, approximately at 12:30 p.m.
  • Selfridge Air National Guard Base, approximately at 12:35 p.m.

The Michigan KC-135s and A-10s are both based at Selfridge and operated by Airmen from the 127th Wing, which is comprised of approximately 1,700 military and civilian personnel. Air Force refueling aircraft will be flying similar flyovers around the country to mark the centennial.

With 100 years of experience, today’s U.S. Air Force air refueling capabilities deliver unrivaled rapid global reach for U.S. forces, Allies and partners through the mobility air forces fleet of KC-46, KC-135 and KC-10 tankers. Aerial refueling serves as a force multiplier, increasing the effectiveness of combat aircraft. Tankers also carry cargo and passengers, perform aeromedical evacuations, and enable strategic deterrence for the United States.

“Our Citizen-Airmen are proud to serve as Michigan’s Hometown Air Force. The support we receive from our community is second to none and this series of flyovers provides us an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to our neighbors, while also demonstrating an important part of the Air Force mission,” said Brig. Gen. Rolf Mammen, 127th Wing commander. “It also serves as a showcase of opportunities that exist in the Michigan Air National Guard for those interested in joining our ranks in service to state and nation.”

Innovation and tenacity delivered the game-changing air refueling capability, once deemed impossible, a century ago.

In the continued pursuit of advanced capabilities and increased endurance, U.S. Army Air Service aviators pulled off the impossible on June 27, 1923. On that day, 1st Lt. Virgil Hine and 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert, flying a DH-4B, passed gasoline through a hose to another DH-4B flying beneath it carrying Capt. Lowell H. Smith and 1st

Lt. John P. Richter, accomplishing the first aerial refueling. The flight took place between Los Angeles and San Diego, California.

While the first military flight took place at Selfridge on July 8, 1917, the first aerial refueling aircraft, a KC-97 Stratofreighter, was not assigned to the base until January 1959. The KC-97 was flown by both the 4045th Air Refueling Wing and the 500th Air Refueling Wing at Selfridge into the mid-1960s.

The 127th Wing’s 171st Air Refueling Squadron, which will be flying the KC-135s during the June 27 demonstration, conducted its first air refueling flight in September 2007, when it first became equipped with KC-135T Stratotanker aircraft. The 171st was created during World War II, first as a fighter squadron and later as an

airlift squadron, flying cargo transport aircraft. The 171st is supported locally by the 191st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 191st Maintenance Squadron and several smaller units. Approximately 300 Airmen are directly affiliated with the air refueling mission at Selfridge. Over the last several years, KC-135 aircraft and personnel from Selfridge have supported missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe and the Pacific region. The A-10s flying in the June 27 demonstration are from the 107th Fighter Squadron.

“Our KC-135 crews, maintainers and support personnel have served all over the world, bringing a little bit of Michigan with them wherever they go,” said Mammen, also a KC-135 pilot at Selfridge. “Our Airmen are excited about this opportunity to share a part of their mission with their friends and neighbors.”

Following the flyovers, those who captured pictures of the event are invited to share them to the 127th Wing’s Facebook page at or on the unit’s Instagram page @127Wing with the tag #SANGBTanker100. Ten people will be selected at random from among those who share photos and will be contacted by the 127th Wing via social media to receive a unit patch.