KC-135 Crew Chief recalls when his Stratotanker low on fuel had to give 6,000 pounds of fuel to an F-4 that failed six approaches to Andersen AFB because of bad weather

KC-135 Crew Chief recalls when his Stratotanker low on fuel had to give 6,000 pounds of fuel to an F-4 that failed six approaches to Andersen AFB because of bad weather

By Dario Leone
Feb 7 2024
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KC-135 Stratotanker crew providing support of trans-pacific ferry missions

As reported by the Carswell Sentinel, a squadron-based newspaper at Carswell Air Force Base (AFB) [Carswell AFB is no more, it’s now Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base, Ft. Worth] in February 1977 the crew of a KC-135 Stratotanker belonging to the 7th Air Refueling Squadron’s (7 ARS) compiled an impressive refueling record while on deployment to Andersen AFB, Guam and the Pacific Tanker Task Force.

Capt. E Brady King, 7 ARS information officer said in the article appeared on the Carswell Sentinel that the KC-135 crew was deployed to Andersen to provide support of trans-pacific ferry missions of F-4s, A-7s and a re-deployment mission of F-15s from Korea to the United States.

KC-135 Print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. KC-135R Stratotanker 161st Air Refueling Wing, 197th Air Refueling Squadron “Copperheads”, 63-8038 – Arizona Air National Guard – Sky Harbor ANG Base, AZ

Emergency air refueling of an F-4

“The most significant accomplishment of the crew, was the emergency air refueling of a F-4 being ferried from Hickam AFB, Hawaii, to Andersen AFB,” said Captain King, “As the crew was leading the F-4 into Guam, the weather rapidly deteriorated and the primary approach aids (electronic means to descend through the clouds to land) were inoperative,” explained King.

“Because of low fuel the aircraft could not divert to Kadena, Okinawa,” he added. The KC-135 crew orbited over Guam while the F-4 attempted six landing approaches.

After the sixth approach failed, the F-4 pilot informed the Andersen command post that he needed fuel immediately, and that he could not wait for the strip alert aircraft from Andersen to take-off. At that point the KC-135 crew took over.

USN F-4
This model is available AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Captain Larry C. Beam, the aircraft commander, declared an emergency and climbed to refuel the desperate F-4. Through precise coordination of the pilot-navigation team, and the calm, confident actions of the boom operator, the rendezvous and aerial refueling was successfully accomplished, giving 6,000 pounds of fuel to the F-4.

After the refueling, the F-4 landed at Agana Naval Air Station, Guam.

Despite the bad local weather conditions, Captain Beam landed at Andersen AFB and shut down his own engines with 4,500 pounds of fuel remaining.

Thus, through the careful, deliberate actions of the KC-135 crew, a valuable F-4 aircraft was saved.

KC-135 Stratotanker crew chief first TDY

Earl Belz, former KC-135 crew chief, told to The Aviation Geek Club;

‘I was the assistant crew chief on the KC 135 in this story.

‘It was my first TDY as a new Air Force crew chief. I was part of a pacific tanker task force that was ferrying F-4s from Hickam airbase in Hawaii to Andersen airbase in Guam. My tanker was on approach to land at Guam. When the pilot was asked to go back up and refuel the Phantom because it was almost out of fuel.

‘As a new crew chief, I was surprised that we went back up and refilled the Phantom as our fuel was pretty low in the tanker. However, we climb the altitude refuel the Phantom and managed to land at Andersen with only 4500 pounds of fuel registering in the fuel totalizer.

‘Part of our Pacific tanker, task force deployment, took us to Clark airbase in the Philippines and the crew chief and myself had our own patch (below) made signifying our participation, and that refuel.

Special patch

‘The following patch instead is the official Pacific tanker task force patch that we were given to wear on our flight suit.

KC-135 Crew Chief recalls when his Stratotanker low on fuel had to give 6,000 pounds of fuel to an F-4 that failed six approaches to Andersen AFB because of bad weather

‘I have saved that article all these years along with those patches because that’s what a geek does.

Photos of the mission

Belz adds;

‘These four photos are ones I took from my KC-135 during that mission.

KC-135 Crew Chief recalls when his Stratotanker low on fuel had to give 6,000 pounds of fuel to an F-4 that failed six approaches to Andersen AFB because of bad weather

‘In the first photo taken from the cockpit, you can see an F-4 being refueled by another KC-135.

KC-135 Crew Chief recalls when his Stratotanker low on fuel had to give 6,000 pounds of fuel to an F-4 that failed six approaches to Andersen AFB because of bad weather

‘The second photo was taken from the over wing hatch window and shows one of the three F-4s we were ferrying to Guam.

KC-135 Crew Chief recalls when his Stratotanker low on fuel had to give 6,000 pounds of fuel to an F-4 that failed six approaches to Andersen AFB because of bad weather

‘The third photo is one of the F-4s moving into position for a top off. That grease pencil writing you see in the boom pod photo is something the boom operator does to help remind him of the call sign of the fighters that he communicates with.

KC-135 Crew Chief recalls when his Stratotanker low on fuel had to give 6,000 pounds of fuel to an F-4 that failed six approaches to Andersen AFB because of bad weather

‘I took this photo from the cockpit and is two F-4s on a KC-135 that was part of the Pacific Tanker task force.’

Photo credit: US Air Force and Earl Belz


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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