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KC-135 Celebrates Five Years at Niagara’s 914th ARW

  • Published
  • By Peter Borys
  • 914th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

It was five years ago today when the 914th Airlift Wing said goodbye to an airframe and mission that has served the community, nation and the world since 1971. Niagara flew various models of the C-130 Hercules over the years from the A, E to H3 and then H2 model.

On June 3, 2017 the 914th Air Refueling Wing welcomed the KC-135R Stratotanker and with it a new mission of air refueling.

A portion of the wing membership have only known the KC-135, but a few still remain and shared their thoughts, memories and the excitement of challenges that lie ahead.

“After the final 2016 C-130 deployment, I took over the ops group and led the way to giving away the eight C-130's and obtaining the eight KC-135's. We also had to re-train approximately 80 crewmembers,” said Lt. Col. Scozzafava, 914th ARW flight safety officer. “In typical Niagara fashion, we became initial operation capable and fully operation capable in a very short amount of time.” That would not have been possible without the diligence of maintenance personnel.

“Maintenance has partnered with us all along the way being retrained and getting the KC-135's up to Niagara's standard.” said Scozzafava. “Here we are five years later and we are getting to go on our next deployment and ramping up for more missions.”

Lt. Col. George Hoffman, a 328th Air Refueling Squadron pilot who flew many hours in the C-130 reflected on his favorite aircraft.

“While both the Herc and the KC-135 are workhorses for the U.S. Air Force the C-130 is a perfect airplane and a perfect mission,” Hoffman stated. “The Herc was a pleasure to fly, the controls responsive, the flying was varied and exciting. We flew low levels, humanitarian aid, secret night-time missions, large scale troop and equipment drops on tiny drop zones, high and low altitude parachute drops over land and water – it was always changing.”

‘On the other side of the coin,’ Lt. Col. Joseph Contino, 914th Operations Group commander, expressed his views in favor of the KC-135.

“The KC-135 Stratotanker and Boeing dash 80 aircraft from which it derived quite literally and singlehandedly changed aviation forever and brought the world into the jet age,” said Contino. "Militarily speaking - it changed military aviation and the tactics and strategies that surround strategic airpower planning forever due to the infinite possibilities aerial refueling, via a rigid boom, affords.”

“The KC-135 infinitely extends the range of every single combat aircraft in USAF, Navy, and NATO inventory which creates a non-nuclear deterrent in and of itself it is the backbone of the mission - there isn't one solitary arm of the U.S. nuclear triad of deterrence that the KC-135 does not enable,” Contino stated.

From a maintenance perspective Chief Master Sergeant Patrick Martin, the 914th Maintenance Squadron Senior Enlisted Leader, said that his section has come a long way.

“We are steadily increasing our knowledge base and experience in maintaining this historic aircraft. Keeping aircraft that are 65 years old in the air and under any weather conditions takes many hours,” said Martin. “The 914th Maintenance Group takes pride in the challenge in maintaining this historic aircraft and we look forward to what's ahead for our unit!”

Recently the unit celebrated the C-130 heritage with a static display aircraft and ceremony near the front gate.

By the time the KC-135 is expected to enter retirement and phased out from the USAF once and for all, it will have served just over 100 years — longer than any other aircraft in American history. Having seen action in virtually every American-involved conflict since 1956, the Stratotanker is easily one of the most recognizable and beloved aircraft flying today with the U.S. Air Force.