News 12 crew flies on one of the final flights of the Air Force’s KC-10 refueler tanker
A workhorse of the United States Air Force is flying some of its last flights out of New Jersey as it is being phased out of service.
One of the two main bases for the KC-10 tanker aircraft is Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
News 12 New Jersey’s Alex Zdan and photojournalist Mike Roberts were given an exclusive look at one of the final flights.
“It’s pretty incredible how many moving parts have to happen correctly for it all to be successful,” says Capt. Alicia Canetta. “But it does on a day-to-day basis.”
The KC-10 is considered to be a gas station in the sky. It has enabled American warplanes to fly all over the world for decades.
“All of our receivers realize if they don’t get the gas from us, it can impact their mission and change the course of their day,” says Canetta.
Canetta was the pilot for the flight that News 12 took part in.
“In fifth grade, I had a teacher who was very interested in space and did a lot of different activities with us,” she says. “From that age, I decided to be an astronaut, so I thought, what better way to get there than start by flying airplanes…I made that dream a reality.”
The crew includes pilots, flight engineers, and boom operators who’ll work the device that dispenses the thousands of gallons of fuel on board.
“It’s all about trust. It’s all about confidence in your aircrew,” says Sr. Airman Alexis Gomez.
It was 26,000 feet above the North Carolina coast and cruising at 440 mph when the aircraft gassed up some fighter jets.
“As soon as one of the fighters checks in, it’s all hands on deck. Game’s on, lower the boom,” says Gomez.
Gomez is an Arizona native who serves as a boom operator. “The first time I spoke to a recruiter, I told her I didn’t want a job where I was behind a desk,” Gomez says. “This is my office.”
The KC-10 flies level as F-15 Strike Eagles on a training mission approach one by one and attach to get a few thousand pounds of fuel.
"Today was the last flight, we call it the fini flight, of two members of our crew," Canetta says.
The KC-10 is being replaced by the smaller KC-46. When a pilot or crew member finishes his or her last flight on the KC-10, it is a cause for celebration.
“So, it’s very special for them. Their families came out, the squadron comes out to show support, say thanks and wish them well on their new adventure,” says Canetta.
The last ever flight of the KC-10 is scheduled for June. The Joint Base holds its annual air show Power in the Pines from May 19 to May 21.