Jump to content
Baseops Forums
Sign in to follow this  
Metalhead731

Airlift vs. Refueling

Recommended Posts

I was hoping to get some input from the heavy pilots into the differences between the type of flying involved with airlift missions and air refueling missions and some pro/cons of each. Which is more interesting or fun to fly?

I assume refueling is a lot of straight-and-level over long periods of time and airlift would involve a little more finessed flying but that’s just my impression as an outside observer.

I’ve been submitting applications to both types trying to get a heavy slot. I’d like to know a little more about the ins-and-outs and the subtleties that people might not know about. What you like or dislike, etc.

 

Thanks in advance!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

There's a lot of straight and level time in both but Airlift has more events / missions that are AP off and can be challenging (Low level, NVG, Assult strip, Airdrop, etc..). 

Tanker has some events that are require some of that pilot shit (Min Interval TOs, AP off AR,  Formation, IP demos, etc...) but there is more time in the Flight Levels with the AP on.

Blessed and lucky, got to fly both over my career, Tanker was my first assignment and I enjoyed it and later in the ANG got to do Airlift enjoyed it too, I'm back at a Tanker wing now and still enjoy it.

Good trips in both and crappy trips in both and it is even with me as to which I would recommend.  Saw more places you would want to go to in the tanker (Pacific, Europe, Canada) dragging fighters / bombers occasionally though. 

Both communities have their quirks, about equal on what I found good / annoying.

Everything is what you make of it.  Good luck.

Edited by Clark Griswold
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Majestik Møøse said:

What has your research turned up so far?

I've read through a chunk of the "How do you feel about your airframe and mission" post in the general discussion but that forum seems to be more focused on deployments and lifestyle. I'd like to get a little more information on the flying specifically. Things like maneuvers, challenges, cool experiences in flight, that sort of thing. Just want to get a better feel for the actual pilotage of the aircraft and missions. YouTube has some videos of the interesting stuff like airdrops and flare shows and fighter refuels, but I know that's basically a highlight reel. It seems like the C-130 is an exciting plane to fly from the forum post.

 

Basically, where this question is coming from is my hope of being a fighter pilot wrestling with the reality that I'm 29 years old, low-time, student pilot and not likely to get selected. While I would appreciate the opportunity to fly either mission, I feel like I would want to lean towards something that will satisfy the adrenaline itch a little. I've been very fortunate to get offered an interview at both a refueling unit and an airlift unit this round and I wanted a a better idea of which would suit me better and which to pursue further. I would like to do some challenging technical flying in my career. Hope that makes sense.  

 

Edited by Metalhead731

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In that case, don’t disqualify yourself from flying fighters because of your on perceived weaknesses. The things that got you offered a job flying heavies will probably translate to getting hired flying fighters (aka you’re probably a good dude).

I’ve never flown heavies, but there’s plenty of boring flying in all types of jets. Plenty of exciting flying too. The daily training lines in fighters are more exciting than pilot pro in heavies, but downrange is plenty of sitting on some sort of orbit waiting for something to happen in anything.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

If you're submitting apps, I'm assuming your intention is to go Guard/Reserve.

If you plan on doing only Guard/Reserve for several years, I'd recommend airlift/airdrop. Lots of variety in the mission, always challenging to achieve "greatness" in your position.

If you plan on being a part-timer and flying civilian as well, fly tankers. I think it looks slightly better on a resume and the currency requirements are fewer. I've always found it difficult to meet all the airdrop/airland currency requirements without having to sacrifice at the airlines and still have a home life.

Merely one dude's opinion. Good luck.

Edited by torqued
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don’t think you can go wrong with either.

 

My point of view as a biased career tanker guy: The KC-135 is truly from a different era when it comes to hand flying it.  It’s 1950s vintage through-and-through, so you actually have to FLY THE AIRPLANE.  Or it will fly you, I promise.  Perhaps not the most exciting missions some days, but flying a 60 year old airplane that has trim tabs, cable flight controls, and a shitload of power takes skill and constant attention.  Not much fancy automation, hydraulic flight controls, auto-trim and HUDs to make everyone look like a hero.  Never boring to flying that jet.

 

  • Like 4
  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Being a tanker pilot is fairly straightforward.  Be on station, on time, and minimize distractions and time-on-the-boom for your customer.  While you are accomplishing your primary mission, the AR is probably the least important thing your receiver will do that day.  I found great satisfaction on being "admin" and making my customer's life easier for at least a short time.

Flying the KC-135 can be tricky but I found it personally rewarding.  I haven't flown the -135 since 2013 but when I left it still had one of the most "modern" cockpits in the fleet (ADS-C, CPDLC, satcom, CNS/ATM, etc.).  The block 45 update looks nice too.

Lots of time is spend cruising at FL350 with the autopilot on.  Stateside trips were generally short and into well-established airfields.  Overseas trips involved a lot of Al Udeid, Mildenhall, and Ramstein.  

Just use datalink to get ATIS.... 😄

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Or...….you could fly the Herk and get down to 100' AGL!!!!!

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I enjoy flying the KC-135. I like how it is a real airplane that is somewhat challenging to fly and land. The TDYs are usually pretty fun. If you are dragging fighters they need extended crew rest so guess what you get extended crew rest. The other TDYs are often in decent locations for a few days or weeks which is nice with decent ops tempos. Deployments can be tiring but they aren’t too bad and you can build a bunch of time. Negatives are the plane doesn’t have AC on the ground... but we often get AC carts at deployed locations. And from what I’ve read (and I believe it)  the airplane literally has more checklist steps to get the airplane off the ground than any other airplane ever made. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Or...….you could fly the Herk and get down to 100' AGL!!!!!

2.

Day vis formation through the Ozarks, some NVG assaults and a combat offload got me hooked on the Herk when I was a butter bar.

It can be a challenging mission some days but it’s not too demanding from your average joe. Tac airlift is usually a sideshow to the main war effort, but there are times when all of the stacks and orbits are closed and you feel like the only one in the AOR that night moving pallets and pax to some LZ. Also, you get to see a lot of the AOR up close. Most AF dudes haven’t been to a FOB, yet you are the Army’s lifeline to the outside. Or at least the ticket home.

Advantages: variety, hand flying, low level, drops, random LZs

Disadvantages: slow

I don’t think you’ll find another mobility MDS that can offer a brand new copilot the amount of mission sets and variety that a Herk does.
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Yup.  Or be an MC guy and do both.

Edit - I know there's not much guard/reserve opportunity for that unless you like the rescue gig.

My .02 Tac airlift > AAR (tanker or receiver)

Edited by AFsock
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, MechGov said:


2.

Day vis formation through the Ozarks, some NVG assaults and a combat offload got me hooked on the Herk when I was a butter bar.

 

I'd love to be out on the water and see that. Especially on shootout day

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yup.  Or be an MC guy and do both.
Edit - I know there's not much guard/reserve opportunity for that unless you like the rescue gig.
My .02 Tac airlift > AAR (tanker or receiver)

I couldn’t speak for the HC world. MC mission is pretty legit, although it’s a fair bit more difficult to stay current/proficient in all the METLs than in slicks.

That being said...no guard/reserve MC units, so moot point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I’m a career 135 guy who will (eventually) transition to the 46.  FWIW, love “the tanker”, the mission, and all the places it’s taken me...but I’d give my left nut to fly tac LL in the Herc.  That being said, it’s nice to have tons of ANG and decent basing options, go to nice locations, and cruise at M0.83

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds like the Herc is a fun one to fly. 

What about the C-17? Does that one combine turbine power of a jet with the flying of the airlift missions? Any experience in that one?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Metalhead731 said:

Sounds like the Herc is a fun one to fly. 

What about the C-17? Does that one combine turbine power of a jet with the flying of the airlift missions? Any experience in that one?

**not a -17 pilot**

your experience will vary based on whether or not your base/squadron flies airland or airdrop

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

C-17s, did the airdrop mission as well. Bear in mind my experience was AD at a superbase; the guard/AFRC is different and probably much better. 

Pros: see a lot of cool places, NVG LLs, assault landings, air refueling, airdrop was (mostly) fun, made good TDY money/tax frees

Cons: local sorties sucked balls, the ever existing threat of a Q3 (especially in airdrop), lots of trips to the same (crappy/sandy) locations, long duty days were exhausting (although I’ve heard a rumor that they don’t fly as many augmented crew duty days since I’ve left, which would be nice)

There’s a lot more I could get into on each of these subjects, but don’t have the time to type it all up right now. 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you enjoy watching other people talk about their planes from your €400 a night hotel room on a bed of per diem, the 709th at Dover is hurting for good dudes to fly the C-5. It’s all glass, modern (by Air Force standards) avionics, flys like a dream (I’m not making that up. It was nicer to hand fly than my current ride, the T-6.), and you have a flight engineer. Any pilot who hates on engineers must have had bad engineers, because all the ones I flew with had been working the C-5 for decades and were a huge source of knowledge anytime the plane shit the bed, which it does. It’s nice being able to just fly the airplane while someone else competent and qualified dealt with why the gear didn’t come down.

Bottom line, it’s not tactical at all and is about as close to airline flying as the Air Force gets, but if that appeals to you, you enjoy a large flying crew, and you want to fly a celebrity everywhere and host mini air shows at every ramp you park on, do it!

  • Upvote 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

C-5 would be awesome. I've been getting my application ready for the 709th as well since seeing it on Bogidope. I would love to fly that thing.

I got an interview with Reno actually and I see they do a lot of forest firefighting. I've actually considered that as a long-term flight goal for myself for a while if the opportunity ever presented itself. That seems like very cool flying too. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, zachbar said:

Any pilot who hates on engineers

.... is an idiot. There. Fixed it. 

I’ve never had an engineer that wasn’t worth his weight in gold. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

100% go hercs.  You won’t regret it.  You get to do all the cool tactical stuff but plenty of drone time at the FLs en route to a 5 star hotel.  Almost every herc pilot is airdrop qualified out of the get go whereas only certain C-17 units airdrop.  Both the C-17 and C-130 are incredible aircraft but I’m obviously biased.

Btw, 100A low levels are rare...both times I did it were during Weapons School sorties.  300A is standard though and a blast.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

C-17 and C-141 guy here.  The nice thing about the C-17 is jet speeds, jet engines,  travel the world, and participate in world events as they happen, like earthquakes, hurricanes, contingencies, evacuations, VIP and Presidential support. For example, I flew into Berlin as the wall was dismantled, Panama invasion, all the wars and skirmishes since 1987. Left 6 years of active duty with 4400 hrs of international heavy jet time, which the airlines love. My buds in Tankers had 1500 hrs total in the same time frame.  To be fair that was during the time they sat SAC  alert a lot.  The nice thing about C-17 is it’s new’ish, you get to taste all missions, Airdrop, tac low level, special ops, Air refueling etc.  we had a few Tanker guys transition into my Reserve squadron and they liked the challenge of the mission but complained about all the currency.  Either way, if you notice the responses so far, most guys like the plane their flying and enjoy the mission.  If your goal is Airlines, I think a KC-46 would be tough to beat nowadays.

Good Luck

Edited by Vito
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks! I appreciate the perspective. Definitely gives me something to think about with flying heavies.   

By the way, if anyone from the 731st in Colorado Springs sees this and is willing to shoot me a PM, I’ve tried calling and emailing the unit with the Bogidope info but haven’t had much luck. Would love to visit the unit and apply. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  



×
×
  • Create New...