I found this video on YouTube and thought to myself that this can’t possibly be interesting, but when I started looking at it, I found myself mesmerized. I was an FMF Corpsman. I freely admit that I can’t identify the planes in this video. I don’t know the proper terminologies to use here, but I was fascinated by the maneuvers these pilots performed.
There are lots of dimensions to this skill both on the part of the pilots and on the part of the boom operator on the refueling tanker. They are traveling at high speed at high altitude. Connecting the fuel nozzle to the fuel tank on the fighter is like threading a needle in a high wind. But these pilots and that boom operator do it with practiced accuracy and ease. Though I can imagine that there are moments of tension as the approach is made.
You watch as each sophisticated fighter jet approaches the suspended fueling boom. You hear the boom operator casually calling off the number of feet to contact; “40 feet, 30, 20, 10,” and you can feel yourself leaning forward in tense anticipation as the planes slowly approach the connection.
The fighter pilot makes slight alterations in direction and speed to make the connection and the boom operator in the refueling jet maneuvering the nozzle into the gas tank opening on the fighter jet. Then you hear the boom operator’s equally casual announcement, “Contact.”
Then the banter begins between the pilots on the fighter jet and the boom operator on the refueler. It is sometimes minimal and “Just the facts, ma’am” kind of communication, at others it is goofy, pass the time, kind of talk. But you, the viewer, are taken up with that awesome aerial ballet that is so crucial to the continuance of the mission for those fighter pilots.
Enjoy this brief, but engaging video.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.