Over the Top

A KC-135 tanker deployed directly from Fairchild AFB, Wash., to the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, via a route that took it over the Arctic Circle and the North Pole. The flight was “first time an Air Force air refueling tanker has ever flown this route,” according to service officials. They said the Polar route, made possible by a 2009 US-Russia transit agreement, saved about 4.5 hours and $54,000. Typically, tankers travel from Fairchild to England, spend the night, and then continue on to Kyrgyzstan the next day. However, the combined active duty and Air National Guard aircrew was able to save two days of mandatory rest by circumventing England during the June 21-22 mission. “These routes give us interesting new options and open new corridors,” said Maj. Chris Fuller, a plans chief at the Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott AFB, Ill. This KC-135 flight follows the first-ever direct flight of a C-5M earlier this month from Dover AFB, Del., to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, via an Arctic route. (Manas report by Capt. Kathleen Ferrero)