60 years of very hard work

On August 31st, the US Air Force celebrated the 60th year in service of the KC-135 Stratotanker.  You can read a report of the official ceremony here.  As part of the celebrations, the USAF produced this video to commemorate the occasion.  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

It’s sobering to think that, along with the B-52 Stratofortress it refuels, the KC-135 has been flown by three entire generations of pilots and crewmen.  Today, some of its crew are the grandchildren of those who first flew the plane back in 1956 – and they’re flying the same aircraft (literally the same airframe) that their grandparents did.  The only aircraft to beat that performance, as far as I’m aware, is the legendary C-47 of World War II.  I flew in one (operated by the South African Air Force) in the 1980’s whose logbooks recorded that it had taken part in Operation Market Garden over Holland in 1944.



  1. Thinking about it a bit more, I seem to recall that one of those DC3s is the world leader in both hours flown and take-off and
    landing cycles. If my memory is correct, it flies cargo in Alaska in the summer and spends its winters leased to
    ??NASA?? ??NTSB?? (somebody) so they can study the effects of very long-term metal fatigue.

  2. They also carry cargo, IIRC. A friend was a C-141 cargomaster, and when they retired that bird, they offered him a seat in the -135. He refused, and switched to Intelligence, instead. Didn't want to fly in a fuel tanker. He recently retired from the AF, so that was a while ago.

  3. Got to sit several times in the right seat of a DC-3/C-47 my father flew frequently for Sperry Gyroscope, along with a number of other planes, including a T-33 they used for various purposes (such as testing missile warhead proximity fusing along with Raytheon, who was developing the system – the two jets had to fly directly at each other, maintaining a fifty-foot separation to test the warhead ;-). He flew B-17's over Germany during WWII, took part in the Berlin airlift, flew B-47s and then B-52s for SAC, and as a civilian pilot, flew some of the flights along with the Air Force (out of MacDill AFB in Tampa) over Cuba locating the missile sites with the airborne infrared photography that Sperry had developed.

    When I think of him being the 21 year-old pilot of a B-17 flying missions over Germany in WWII and then look at our 21 year-old "millennials" today, all I can do is shake my head.

  4. It's possible that there are C-130s that could also match that record. That design's been around for almost as long as the B-52 and KC-135, and has been a worthy successor to the DC-3 as a flexible, do anything, cargo carrier.

  5. C-130 as another commenter stated, also the Russian AN-2, In production from 1947-2001 and I believe now still being made in the Cz republic under license.

  6. @Quartermaster: Not necessarily. A C-47 that came through the RAF would have been named the 'Dakota', just as a T-6 that came through the RAF would have been named a 'Harvard' instead of a 'Texan'.

    However, if a Commonwealth air force got its C-47's direct from the USA, they would have been delivered as C-47 Skytrains. Some air forces would have renamed them Dakotas in keeping with their RAF ties; others did not.

    The South African Air Force was, in the 1970's and 1980's, the world's largest C-47 operator, with over 50 in service. Many were obtained after the war on the civilian market, picked up here and there whenever one became available at a reasonable price. Therefore, there were often no names such as 'Dakota' or 'Skytrain' involved; just the civilian DC-3 label. In South African service, they were usually referred to as 'Dakotas', 'Daks' or something ruder, but the C-47 designation was common.

    Confusing, I know, but that's how it was in those days, in that part of the world.

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