Flying Old, Wanting New

The New Hampshire Air National Guard’s 157th Air Refueling Wing has at least one airman who is older than the KC-135Rs the unit flies, at least according to a report by Foster’s Daily Democrat. Col. Richard Martel, vice commander of the 157th ARW, told the newspaper in an interview that the wing has a heavy schedule, refueling aircraft flying to and from Europe and the Middle East. He considers the unit’s maintainers “some of the best in the world,” but he believes keeping the unit’s aircraft operational “is getting into unknown territory.” The wing aircraft have new engines, retrofitted in the 1990s, but the structure is old, said Martel. The wing’s maintenance ops chief, John Menton, agrees, although he said aircraft inspections are thorough. Still, Menton, added, “We’re just going to fly them into the ground without a replacement.” Martel doesn’t expect to see new tankers in New Hampshire for 15 to 20 years under the Air Force’s 40-year replacement plan.