I am presenting below and article I wroyte for an English aviation magazine on Operation Creek Party. It was great fun researching and writing.
Operation Creek Party - The KC-97L in Europe by Bob Archer
For eleven years, the air refuelling corridors above central Germany reverberated to distinctive rhythm of four Pratt and Whitney R-4360-59 Wasp radial engines. The aircraft flying these important training missions were Boeing KC-97L Stratofreighters, which had been given a new lease of life due to the insatiable requirements for additional KC-135 tankers to support the war effort in South East Asia (SEA). These Stratofreighters, which earlier in their careers had been designated as the KC-97G, (and affectionately abbreviated simply to "Strats") had once been the backbone of the aerial refuelling task for Strategic Air Command (SAC), until the last examples were withdrawn from active duty Squadrons at the end of 1965. The dependable, and well respected Strats began entering Air National Guard service in May 1961 for aerial refuelling tasks - with Illinois and Wisconsin being the first two ANG organisation to re-equip with the type. Initially the KC-97F was the version which joined the ANG, although their career was short lived, as surplus KC-97G models became available in appreciable numbers, enabled this latter type to begin reserve service from the latter part of 1962. Initially ANG KC-97s were flown primarily for operations within the United States, enabling additional Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers to deploy to SEA. However, the KC-97 was barely adequate to perform the refuelling task, as the Wasp engines struggled to maintain formation with the new jet bombers, such as the B-47 and B-52. Furthermore the Strat was virtually outclassed while refuelling the Century series fighters and the newer McDonnell F-4 Phantom, as all too frequently the tanker was required to transfer fuel while in a shallow descent. It has been suggested that the venerable Strat was close its maximum cruising speed, while the F-4 was close to a stall, so the descent refuelling mode offered an additional safety margin.
The possibility of ANG Stratofreighter tankers being stationed in Europe followed the successful deployment to Europe in August 1964 under Operation Ready Go of 28 ANG KC-97s refuelling 19 F-100s and 12 Republic RF-84F Thunderflashes on their trans Atlantic deployment. This was the first major intercontinental ANG operation, and reinforced the shortcomings of the KC-97. Apart from the difficulty maintaining an acceptable altitude, there was an ever present danger of a fully loaded KC-97 loosing an engine while departing a facility on a hot and humid day could have catastrophic results. An engine failure on such conditions would require the underwing tanks to be jettisoned, which was unthinkable due to the proximity of municipal airports located close to populated residential and business areas.
The solution was devised by personnel of the 108th Air Refuelling Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. A team headed by aeronautical engineer Lieutenant Philip A Meyer investigated the possibility of utilising surplus General Electric J-47 jet engines taken from retired KB-50J/K Superfortresses, with installation on the hard points formerly used to mount the KC-97 underwing tanks. The J-47 engines offered an additional 5,970 lbs of thrust, which was a considerable performance boost during takeoff, and climb to altitude. Furthermore the new engines increased the tankers ceiling from 15,000/20,000 to 30,000 feet [4,572/6,096 metres to 9,144 metres]. The additional jets also enabled a modest boost of an extra 30 knots during refuelling missions, thereby improving compatibility with receivers. In addition an AN/APX-29 long range "rendezvous" radar was installed atop the fuselage in a large fairing.
Following a feasibility study, the blueprint was evaluated by Air Force Systems Command, who arranged for a contract with Hayes Aircraft Corporation at Birmingham Municipal Airport, Alabama. Hayes had considerable experience with maintenance and repair of multi-engined types, and had earlier performed a similar upgrade to the KB-50s. Paradoxically, stored KB-50s were the donors for the components necessary to improve KC-97 performance. Therefore the KC-97L upgrade was a fairly simple modification. The biggest stumbling block to the programme was funding. This situation was resolved by Tactical Air Command's commander, Gen. Walter C. Sweeney, Jr. who supported the ANG proposal due to SAC being unable to support his command's wartime air refuelling requirements. The ANG tanker force was subordinate to TAC in the event of mobilisation, and was therefore of considerable interest to General Sweeney. The prototype KC-97 modification cost $67,000 to complete, but this unit cost was reduced to $36,000 per aircraft for the remaining 55 KC-97L conversions. ...
Jerry Clark, e-mail, 08.04.2014 05:29
I flew the KC-97 as pilot and copilot for the Tennessee Air Natuonal Guard at McGhee Tyson in Knixville jfrom 1971-1975. I had several hundred hours in it refueling in the US and in Europe. We along with. 5 other units ran an operation called Creek Party out of RheinMein in Frankfort, Germany and each unit had 2 weeks and then it rotated to the next unit for two weeks so that every 12 weeks we had a two week stint. We were on NATO active duty for Creek Party. We just refueled fighters and no large planes as our airspeed were too low for the larger planes. It took 14 hours flying time from Knoxville to Frankfort. We stopped going over at Goose Bay, Labrador and hit the European continent at Shannon Ireland, then to Frankfort. On the return, it would take 17 hours with stops in Keflavic, Iceland and Goose Bay to Knoxville.
We flew local missions out of Knoxville just about every day of the week. We refueled both Guard fighters and regular Air Force. We had plenty of pilots so we had pretty flexible scheduling. We hung a tag on a flight and scheduled ourselves most of the time. It was each pilots responsibility to get his requirements met for day/night refuelings, landings, instrument approaches and overwater nav time in. I actually flew about as much as many of my friends who were in the regular Air Force even thiugh I was part time. I flew most Wednesday Nd Friday nights, many Saturday and Sunday flights and participated regularly in Creek Party in Europe. We flew to Puerto Rico to Ramey Ir Force Base regularly during January and February of each year. We would land just after midnight in Friday night and get in 5 days pay for a weekend! We also brought back our limit of Bacardi rum. It was $1.89 per gallon if my memory serves me correct.
We were mostly concerned about oil use as we had more fuel than we did oil. On flights to Europe we had an extra 55 gallon barrel of oil that we could transfer to the oil used by the engines. On the walk around, it was common to have a drop of oil drip on you checking out the engines. We also had the jet engines, so we had 4 recipes and two jets. Jets could burn either jp4 or avgas. It was an oil hog!
I saw a post by Dean Gambill Jr. His dad was a Flight Engineer and the most respected one in our group. I flew with him a lot so Dean Jr., I thought a lot of your Dad and learned a lot about the airplane from him. He was a fine man.
It was one tough plane. I flew one through a hurricane on the way to Ramey one night and at the time just thought I was in a very bad class 6 thunderstorm. I had the engineer turn off the over wing lights as the wings were flexing on that plan an unbelievable amount and I didn't want to see them break off. They didn't and I thanked Boeing when I landed in Ramey for the strength they put in that plane. I was most worried about running into hail and smashing the inter coolers on the engine and loosing all 4 of them and having to fly with jets only. We were lucky and didn't run into hail, so we made it without damaging anything. We had been flying in the Bermuda Triangle and were glad to get to Ramey. We had some strange things happening with the radar on that flight and it was out when we came back to the US on Sunday so we had to island hop to Miami because it was out and got jumped by two Migs near Cuba. Just as we got to Miami and out of the Bermuda Triangel, the radar began working again. Strange flight!
Bruce R Nelson, e-mail, 16.03.2014 01:38
Seeking USAF Sgt James E Davis. We flew together the last “scheduled” C-97 out of Travis as the switch to C-135s took hold. Jim, his wife and my family were off duty good friends. Traansfers led us astray with no contact....perhaps this will find his way. Thanks, Bruce R Nelson, Salem, Oregon 2064145971
Jerry Hardesty, e-mail, 17.01.2014 06:02
I was disappointed when my F-84F assignment got replaced with an assignment to the 97th AREFS at Biggs AFB in Texas. Out squadron was then transferred to Malmstron AFB in Montana. It was at Malmstrom I learned to love the KC-97G I more than 5,000 hours in the '97". I flew the aircraft as a co-pilot and aircraft commander at Malmstrom and was then awarded an assignment to fly the command crew at Vanderberg AFB. From there, I went to Guam and flew and instructed on the "97" at Anderson AFB. I still regret not getting to fly the F84, but I cannot think of a greater four engine prop driven aircraft in the Air Force inventory. I can truly say I loveed every minute I flew it. It's dependability and stability made it a joy to fly. The dependability, of course, was a direct result of the dedicated mechanics and ground crew that worked theis asses off to keep them in the air. I still remember the comradeship all the crews shared, whether ground crew or flight crew. I met a lot of wonderful people while flying a wonderful ship. She will forever remain in my heart. I started flying the "97" in iSeptember 1957 and flew her through 1966.
Charles Landis, e-mail, 14.01.2014 00:07
First duty assignment,1956,509th AREFS, Walker AFB, NM.. Maintenance, then changed to OMS. 58, the wing moved to Pease AFB, NH. Spent a tour at the Goose, transient alert, handled a lot of 97s going onto the alert pad. Next assignment, 376th OMS, Lockbourne AFB. OH. Assigned as asst cc on 53-136, till I went to March AFB, in 63. Got out in 64 and spent time with the CAL ANG, on 97s. For all those, that loved the 97, my chance came, in 95. I went to work with a outfit in Corpus Christie, TX., that owned a surplus 97. Helped them pull the annual on 52-2718, and worked that airplane in AK. We hauled salmon from the outlying ports to the cannery at Kenai. You want something that will make you fill young again, try it. That plane has now been restored and is owned by the Berlin Airlift Association. She is supposed to be a flying museum. She is painted in the same colors as the XC-97, that was used during the Berlin Airlift. Believe me, I didn't know a 97 was used then. Google her tail number, for more info. Of all the 97,s I worked on, 52-2718 and 52-2698 are the only 2 remaining flyable 97s left. My old girl friend, 52-2697, my first acft in 56, She is a static display at Grissom ARB, IN. I got the chance to go inside her a couple of years ago. Many good memories.
Jimmymcgee, e-mail, 07.03.2013 23:13
At Forbes around 1955? A KC had a prop break and go into the aircraft. I THINK it was at about 20,000 feet. It had a full crew plus an evaluation crew on board. It went into a flat spin and crashed not too far from the base. Many of us were bussed out there, joined hands and searched for parts, people, etc. No one survived. Can anyone remember this?
CC Wade, e-mail, 20.02.2013 20:15
Info on Lemay's C97
Ron Brink, e-mail, 28.12.2012 20:32
These comments have brought back some pleasant and some not-so-pleasant memories. I was a co-pilot in the '97 from Nov. 61 to Dec 63 assigned to the 310th ARS at Schilling. As a '135 sim instructor at Altus in the late '90s I reminded my students that I went back to when tankers had propellors on them. Some didn't even know it. I told tham that SAC had a philosophy that said "if someone would build a runway around the world, SAC would buy a tanker that wouldn't be able to take off on it." I also told them that there was a plan in the late 60's to use the '97 in Viet Nam but they found out that the Russians had developed a grease seeking missile so that idea was scrapped.
Jim Webb, e-mail, 15.12.2012 17:30
Hey all. I'm a former boom operator and flight engineer. I'm currently writing a book that covers all of the air refueling squadrons from 1948 to present. I'm looking for stories, photos, and scans of patches from guys who were in the units or had family in the units. I'd love to interview you over the phone if you have a chance. My number is 1-850-803-9275. I live in North Carolina. Many old crewmembers are passing away daily and we need to make their history permanent so that generations to come can read and see what they did for our country. I can send you examples from my book if you'd like. You'll be impressed. Jim Webb
Björn, e-mail, 13.11.2012 18:20
Hi at all, i´m from Germany and build a model of the C97G during the Vietnam war. Does anyone have pictures of such planes, he can leave me only for private purposes? What build number and units are flown to and from Vietnam? Many thanks for your help.
Lt. Col. George A. Larson, USA, e-mail, 17.10.2012 21:21
I am researching a book on Dyess AFB which will include KC-97 operations. I am working with Dyess AFB Public Affairs. I am asking for inputs on those at Dyess in KC-97s. WWIIHIST@AOL.COM
Fred Dack, e-mail, 13.07.2012 18:07
To misfits.Although I flew a couple of thousand hours in the KC 97 as a boomer and a radio operator I never flew the Pacific routes. I did make several trip across the Atlantic though and Newfoundland to England or The Azores was about 12 hours. I still have all my old flying time records (about 11,600 hrs.) and might be able to find a specific trip I remember to reference. I flew from Beale AFB, CA to Hickam many times in a KC 135 and it usually was a little over 5 hours.
Fred Dack, e-mail, 13.07.2012 17:34
To Martin in Quebec,Sir, I have just received this network site on all the old aircraft but have only viewed a few items. I was interested in the KC 97 s as I was a Radio Operator and later a Boom Operator on 97 and then KC 135 s. I always heard about what could be your aircraft but not sure if the dates agree. However, I attended a 135 school in 1963 with a guy who was the boomer on a KC 97 that flew out of Plattsburgh AFB, NY one winter night but not sure of the year. They had major problems and had to bail out somewhere over NY State. They left the aircraft on autopilot and they couldn’t find any wreckage for some time. Eventually they found it flew north till it ran out of gas and then made a nearly perfect landing, but even he didn’t know exactly where and never knew if they retrieved it. In those days most of us in SAC aircraft referred to your area as “up near Goose Bay” as we all pulled some kind of duty there. Hope this helps. Fred Dack.
jimpojmanski, e-mail, 04.06.2012 01:06
I was one of those Air Evac Medics in 56,57,58,59 and flew out of Hickman and also out of Tachikawa AFB and beside the C-97 we also flew the sick in the Navy's C-121. i remember the incident with Major Tyson flying with two engines because one of my friends had been dead heading back to hickam after delivering patients to Travis. I am trying to find out "the flying time from Travis to Hickman in the C-97 back in 1956" i can't remember..i believe it was about 12 hours and in head winds about 14...am I right? I can't remember help HELP
Barrie Dieffenbach, e-mail, 01.06.2012 18:11
I was at Dover AFB in the 11th ARS Air Police from 1962 - 1964. Our KC-97's went TDY to Goose Bay, North Africa, The Azores, Spain & England while I was there. I spent 3/4 of those years out of the USA with those aircraft. Great time. They moved the 11th ARS out of Dover a few years later.
Charles Landis, e-mail, 10.05.2012 04:30
Info Len Serio, KC-97G/L 52-2697, located at the Grissom Air Museum Grissom ARB, IN, was one of your old birds. She was the first G to be modified to the L version. She was also the first 97, I worked on, as an assist CC. This was in 1956, and, at that time, she was assigned to the 509th AREFS, Walker AFB NM. I got to go inside her, last summer. She has a few parts missing, but she still is a beautiful Old Lady.
Len Serio, e-mail, 05.05.2012 19:32
I was a Flight Engineer on the KC97L with the Illinois Air Guard. We flew them until 1976 when we went to the KC135"s After the Jets were installed the aircraft was a pretty good performer.We had an excellent safety record all the time we had the 97"s
Bob Adam, e-mail, 12.04.2012 22:03
I was stationed at Forbes, AFR from Jan. 1957 to June 1960. Started with the 55ARS in the dock under Master Sgt. Doss as a engine mechanic. Xfer to the flight line late 57 to go TDY to Yokoda AFB as a assistaint crew chief on AC 291 under TSGT Rodriguez. We had a great crew. Capt. Doty was our AC. I spent many hours with that Aircraft, and have many fond memories.
Keith Startup, e-mail, 07.03.2012 15:34
I was a cook stationed at Lockbourne AFB OH and worked in the inflight kitchen, I went TDY to the Azores in 1962?. I do a lot of photography and have 100s of slides of but never was able to get a shot of the inside a KC97 because of the fuel tanks. If anyone knows where I can get access to some I would love to show my sons. I have a grandson in the Marines in Avionics working on F-18s Thanks
Roger Stigney, e-mail, 30.01.2012 03:48
I was trained as a radio operator in 1952 and first flew on B-29's. Because of the Korean war truce, I was then sent to Lockborne AFB to become a part of SAC and fly on KC-97's. I can remember the spacious Radio Opr station and the plush headset mic that we had for use. They later transferred me to Ramey AFB to fly on the RB-36 reconnaissance/bomber. A sharp contrast to the KC-97 as far as having less crew compartment space and the older style headset mics that were being used. Also, the B-36 had very long flights at high altitude with oxygen masks compared to the KC-97 being flown at lower altitude.
Carl Koebel, e-mail, 29.01.2012 23:47
I crewed on the 8th AF Command Crew VC97 #000596 @ Westover AFB. This acft was originally built for "Dewey" to be his AF1, and never made it. It was a really unique plane and should have been place in a museum somewhere instead of the moth ball fleet
Dan Yurkovich, e-mail, 27.01.2012 01:18
I flew on the KC-97G as Navigator from Oct 1958 till Jun 1962. I was in the 55TH ARS, on crew with AC, R.L. Larson, Co-Pilot Lynn Wolf, Eng Chuck Hayes and BO Jim Young. All our aircraft were well maintained. But there was one I remember well, tail number 674. If you flew over eight hours, you had to have a 55 gal drum of engine oil.
Dean L Gamibill Jr, e-mail, 15.08.2011 01:28
In response to John's question of 30-5-2011. The boom's flight control is called a ruddervator, the same name as the control surfaces found on the trailing edges of the tail of V-tail aircraft such as the old V-tailed Bonanzas.
Jack Harper, e-mail, 21.06.2011 22:42
In 1953, I was stationed at Castle AFB, Merced, CA. where I received my Boom Operator training. We flew to Renton,Wash. at Boeing plant to pickup our new KC-97F and return to Castle. Our Squadron was a utility unit so we made many TDY assignments stateside and overseas. We never had a major problem with the aircraft. It was great!
John, e-mail, 30.05.2011 00:11
Quick question re something I have forgotten since my air force days: what is the name of the flight controller at the end of the boom? Thanks! Loved the kc97.
Leroy McVay, e-mail, 22.05.2011 00:35
USN stationed at Sand Point Naval Air Station Seattle, about 1956. USAF KC-97 came in on our GCA. Duty line crew all thought it was a USAF aircraft. Flight crew started taking off their flight suits, all in civies, Boeing flight test crew!
Edwin Townsend, e-mail, 07.05.2011 04:23
I was at Westover 1958to1962, as an Electrician. I remember the VC 97 assigned to us there
45-59596 ... 45-59596 Boeing YC-97B c/n 15721. Deluxe personnel transport - Later redesignated C-97B. In 1954 redesignated C-97D. Since 1965 used by Lt. Gen. H. Wade and staff until retired to MASDC Dec 15, 1969. This Aircraft was sure different, it still had Formation lites on top of the wings. QC Inspector in Phase Dock was bound and determined that they should Work, told him if he could find the Switch or at least a wiring diagram I would make them work for him. Strange with the FWD Personel entrance on the Right side. It had an Car AC unit in the cockpit area mounted above the cockpit entrance and the Compressor mounted in lower area driven by a Hyd Motor. It had all kinds of Heavy DC Generator cable over Center Wing that had been cut off as far as you could reach. Most of the Field Maint people one morning spent a few min laying on the ramp because Dispatch had given us the wrong # for the day
Charles Neal, e-mail, 26.04.2011 05:26
I was an assistant crew chief w/4238th OMS at Barksdale from April 1960 until September 1962. We went Reflex(TDY) on 301st AFRES to Goose Bay, Clinton County, OH, Burmuda, the Azores, Madrid, and Neurseour, Morrocco. Like you Charlie Holt, I still recall Sgt Catalano(A/C #860), Sgt Duck(AC# 858) aka-"Duck's Dilemma") and Sgt Henry Young. The flight crews and fellow maintenance crews were the finest collection of human beings I have ever encountered. Now at age seventy, I still look back at those eighteen months as the best of my life. The eeiry sounds of those ole KC-97G expander tube disc brakes will echo in my memory forever.
Norman Poberezny, e-mail, 18.04.2011 17:54
I flew with the C-97 thru the KC97L FROM 1961-1976 as a IFE I FOUND IT TO BE A GOOD AND FORGIVING A/C. There was a time when I flew out with six engines and came back with Two on one side. Yes it had it's engine problems, jug failures etc. But it was pleasure flying with her. Lot of memories. Norm
Chuck Hayes, e-mail, 15.04.2011 04:38
I flew as a Flight Engineer on KC-97Gs in the 55ARS at Forbes AFB, KS. from 1957 to 1963. Col. Lynn Wolfe (above) was my copilot until he upgraded to Aircraft Commander. Our AC LtCol Richard L. Larson lived in Arlington,TX until two years ago when he moved to San Antonio. The '97 was a fine aircraft, very forgiving but also needed lots of TLC. Priot to the '97 I was a FE on KB-50Js and KB-29Ps.
rob amiot - Colonel Air Cavalr, e-mail, 11.04.2011 16:52
My very first military flight was as a Cadet pending summer training at Fort Benning - Was off a week or so, living with parents in Salt Lake City, Utah, when the call from school came to get ready for the summer session - Airborne Training - at Fort Benning. My contact phone number was for the Headquarters, Utah National Guard, then located on Jacqueline Avenue, in Salt Lake - I reported to them as ordered and was the only passenger on this great plane, to be taken to Fort Benning, thus Columbus commercial airport. No one had ever seen the likes of this aircraft there, and recall a sense of tensness from the Captain and co-pilot flying this then huge bird into Columbus airport. We made it in, and felt like VIP, being only passenger dropped off and picked up by Jeep to start jump school. I recall turning around, they did not shut down, when both crew members and Engineer waved me good bye and wished me luck - Three weeks later I was picked-up by a similar bird, and taken to the academy - How royal could I have been..........
martin, e-mail, 28.03.2011 22:29
I live in Quebec Canada In the forest close to at home there is this tail of plane that sembble to be a kc-97 because there are 4 engine pw 4360hp I would like to know if you know somebody who knows things about this plane crushed about 1955
Charles Landis, e-mail, 20.03.2011 06:34
Assigned to 97G 52-2697, as asst CC, 1956. She belonged to the 509th AREFS, 509th BW, Walker AFB NM. Later assigned as asst CC, on 52-2703 and 52-2698, same unit, at Walker AFB, and at Pease AFB, NH. Assigned as asst CC, on 97G, 53-136,1960 to 63. 376th OMS, 376th BW, Lockbourne AFB, OH, upon return from a PCS to the Goose. 52-2697 presently a static display at Grissom ARB Museum, IN, as a L model. 52-2698 was conv to firetanker and now owned by Clay Lacey, Van Nuys CA. In 95, went to Kenai AK, on 97G/L 52-2718 and spent the summer hauling salmon. She is presently owned by the Berlin Airlift Historical Society and has been repainted to look like the 97 used in the later stages of the Berlin Airlift. Go to YouTube, type, Grace Air C-97, in the search block, and watch some footage taken in 94, of a couple of her landings and a takeoff.
Tom, e-mail, 20.03.2011 03:42
P&W Radial engines do not leak oil, that the very efficent external lubrication system doing it's job. On Weight engines it's called corrosion control. Happy landings everbody
Dave Pann, e-mail, 19.03.2011 22:31
What a wonderful Aircraft. I was at Travis AFB 53 to 57. Worked in Flight line maintenance and ended up working under T/Sgt Haley as assistant night flight line chief. We had 32 C-97's and transported personnel and their families to the Orient and back. We were a regular airline and took great pride in meeting our airline schedule without fail. If you took proper care of these airplanes like we did they never failed us... Of course there are many stories that go along with that statement. I would love to hear from anyone interested enough in our outfit to want to converse. Dv~
George Gore, e-mail, 14.03.2011 20:56
I worked as an engine mechanic on 97s at Travis (1501st FLMS), from Oct57 to Oct59, mostly on the postflight docks. I finished my hitch at Kadena AB on Okinawa, doing throughflights on C124s. I remember only one 97 that came through there. Those 4360s leaked oil constantly, but I still liked working on them.
Dick Workman, e-mail, 14.03.2011 03:04
I worked on the KC-97G at Lincoln AFB, Nebraska in the 98th ARS from 1958-1962. I was a crew Chief on ships 728 and 729. I was on flying status the last two years. We pulled TDY and Reflex Alert at Lincoln, Harmon AFB, Newfoundland, the Azores, Upper Heyford, England and Ft. Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. I have worked on all the aircraft that Delta Airlines has flown from the C46,47 thru the 757. The KC-97G is my favorite out of all of them.
charles holt, e-mail, 04.03.2011 05:39
i was asst c/c on the kc-97g from 1961 at barksdale until they went to carswell then i went to the kc-135 i was on ac 962 and a couple others sgt catalano sgt duck and sgt chaffee was some c/c i was under we would go to gouse bay usualy in winter and had keep engs pre heated ans the snow swept off sure enjoyed my time on that a/c
John J. Doyle, e-mail, 27.02.2011 05:53
I was in the last class of recip engine mechanics at Sheppard AFB in 1961. I was assigned to Lockbourn AFB in Jan 62. I worked in the periodic maintenance docks. I remember my crew of Zambron (best mech I ever knew) and a tall black guy everyone called Bubba who played basketball for the 376 Bomb Wing. We went to Goose Bay during the Cuban Missile crisis. When the KC-97's were replaced in 1963 I went to Tachikawa Japan to work on C-124's for MATS. I loved all 4 years of my service working on the R4360-59B's and R4360-63A's.
Loomas Marshall, e-mail, 16.01.2011 08:32
Chuck, Maybe you can tell me anything about Gen Old's 377 Boeing #8411. stationed at March. I was a member of the 320th OMS until the wing went some where else. Came to March from the Goose in Sept 58.
loomas j marshall, e-mail, 14.01.2011 12:01
Can anyone inform me on the status of the Boeing 377 #8411 which LT/GEN Archie Old utilized for a number of years at March AFB.The Bird was well cared for by a ground crew of aprox ten people and was polished to a high shine to look like sterling silver.
Wendell Ensor, e-mail, 31.12.2010 00:33
I flew the C-97 out of Travis from 1956 to 1959. We must have landed on every runway in the Pacific. Was in the 55th ATS when our ops officer (Maj Tyson) flew a C-97 from the central Pacific (Equal Time Point,California/Hawaii) with two engines out because of a runaway prop (No. 1&2}to Hilo. Hawaii.
FRED HANNAH, e-mail, 12.12.2010 05:57
In 1951-1954, I was station at Hickam AFB and believe all our YC-97s were restricted to operated only to and from Travis AFB. Possible because of aircraft Logistical support. The rest of our fleet were C-97A that primarly flew west to Handa(?) AB Japan. Most were airevac flights back to Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii
Tillman Everson, e-mail, 03.12.2010 23:10
I was stationed at Westover AFB from 1965 to 1969 and we had one of the VC-97's on base. I got to fly as a passenger on it on a SAC inspection of Ramey AFB, PR in 1968. Nice airplane inside.
Louis Lichter, e-mail, 03.12.2010 20:14
I flew on KC 97's in year 1955 out of Mc Dill Florida. I was air to air refueling.
Charles Bos, e-mail, 28.11.2010 15:39
I was a flight engineer on some version of the 97 fron 1953 to 1972. Compared to the B-29 it was a real jewel. I flew the C-97F 51-243 mentioned by Bob Archer above for 4 years at Torrejon AB, Madrid. It was the first KC-97 built, comverted from a tanker to a VC-97 for the Commander 16th AF. When SAC lost the base at Torrejon I was the FE who delevired it to Barksdale AFB. I would like to see the pictures of her destruction but it would bring tears to my eyes.
Jim Body, e-mail, 09.11.2010 00:54
Was navigator in this gal from Nov 1956 @ Hunter (308th) until she was retired from the Ohio ANG @ Rickenbacker in 1975 Have time in the one being restored @ Wright Patterson #630 . Was in Savannah when 917 from our unit crashed in Nov 1958 with loss of 11 lives and later in Ohio ANG when 918 was lost with no injuries or loss of life. Was at Hunter when our unit burned the wing of one during alert testing when a prop hit the ground power unit in 1957. It was great to read all the previously submitted comments. Frank Hogarty whose comments are listed was a pilot also in the 308th at Hunter.
Phil Stromowsky, e-mail, 05.11.2010 03:26
I had the privilege of flying this good airplane as co-pilot out of Savannah, Georgia in the mid to late 50's. A fine experience!
Bob Archer, e-mail, 02.11.2010 21:25
The VC-97D referred to by Chuck Lavoie was 48-0415. I have a photo of teh aircraft at March AFB. Such a shame that a beautiful aircraft had to end her days at the hands of the fire department. The replacement was C-97F 51-0243, I believe, which I photographed being broken up inside MASDC at Davis-Monthan AFB in October 1973. Was wearing a 2nd BW badge on the "Milky Way." Best wishes
Chuck Lavoie, e-mail, 31.10.2010 22:42
Re: The VC-97 at Barksdale. (Mr Primes question) The aircraft you are referring to was a VC-97D and the last three of the tail number was 415. It was General Wade's, 2nd Air Force Commanders aircraft. I was stationed at Barksdale as a C-97 crew chief and later as a C-97 Flight Engineer. The aircraft did not crash. It had corrosion and cracks in it wing spars. It was deemed to expensive to repair. Hence it was classed 26th and towed to the far side of the field next to a B-29 the fire dept. used for training. We stripped many components from it before the fire dept., trained with it. We then received a replacement C-97F from Torrejon, Spain. It was plushed up but not as nice as 415. I hope this helps and answers your question.
Bob Dewhurst, e-mail, 25.10.2010 18:41
I was stationed with the 509th ARS at Walker AFB in 1952when we recieved bran new KC-97G's to replace our KB-29M's (boom) We went through training at West Palm Beach. In 1955 we were TDY to Thule and were told to fly our airplanes on a shake-down flight. we had a runaway prop on take off, did a 180 and lost the G rotor pump on a second engine. Our total flight time was seven minutes. Our aircrafts were assined to a crew. This tail number was 52-2703. After I left the unit, it was again at Thule and crashed there. All of the crew survived. I spent the last of my career at SAC Headquaters and flew the C-97's out of base flight. It was truly my pick of the planes I flew.
John Setser, CMS USAF, RET, e-mail, 16.10.2010 04:52
I was an engine mech on the KC97 at Lockbourne 1957 to 1963. Worked in post dock and engine conditioning. I remember Walter Polk, Crew Chief and FE at Lockbourne.Also worked on the KC97 at Plattsburgh 1963 to 1964. and the C97 at Offutt 1965.. Good engine!!
John Andrew Prime, e-mail, 11.10.2010 03:03
Does anyone know the number and history of the KC-97 that was used for fire practice at Barksdale AFB in the 1960s? Rumor was it was one that had been used as a personal transport by Curtis LeMay but had suffered fuselage/structural damage upon landing and was towed for use in the fire pit. Any info appreciated!
David Regan, e-mail, 04.10.2010 03:36
I was working Base Opps @ Schilling in 1963 on a Sunday and was receiving an ANG KC-97 and while parking, static wire and chalks I noticed that #1 and 2 props were chewed up like saw teeth. Then I noticed part of a fence post in the left wheelwell. Then the aft. door opened and out came the crew chief kind of walking funny and said to me, Took down the farmers fence about a half mile from the runway. He looked at the props and fence post and said something about the A/C that I wont repeat. Then he said something about being lucky to be alive. Tension really mounted when the A/C and crew came out to have a look. That would have been a hard landing.
Charles (Chuck) Vogel, e-mail, 17.09.2010 21:07
I had the privilege of being a pilot/aircraft commander on a KC-97 from 1953 to 1957 out of March AFB Riverside,CA. Still keep in touch with 320th Sq members. Spent TDY's at Newfoundland, England, North Africa, Mountain Home, Alaska, plus an unexpected trip to Tacoma Wash, after losing 3 out of 4 engines. Rapcon gave me directions to McChord AFB (was on way to Alaska)after ordering the crew to bail out(10 people including passengers, I couldn't get auto pilot to hold plane level to get out, so landed in snowing conditions on one engine #4. Every one landed safely(some bruises & scratches) This was in 1956. Enjoyed the KC 97 & it was truly the cadilac of the Air Force!
Vern DeSplinter, e-mail, 13.09.2010 16:58
KC97G #147 crew chief at Whiteman 58-62 with a 2 yr break to go to nouasuer, no africa. Loved the experience with SAC, Azores, Spain, and the flight crews. Great bunch of guys. Great airplane
Dick McClaine, e-mail, 10.09.2010 05:14
Fresh out on Aviation Cadets in Jul 1955, arrived at Dow AFB as a new KC-97G Navigator with the 71st ARefS. Six months later I was on a 120 day TDY to Thule AB, Greenland (also had another 120 days a year later). Great airplane and a fun experience refueling the RB-47s from 55 SRW. Also numerous other shorter TDYs during my 4 years at Dow AFB....but all to cold weather bases! Wonderful memories.
John Hooten, e-mail, 10.09.2010 00:27
I have often wondered what happened to the two YC-97J aircraft as my uncle Lt.Col. Bill Hooten was a pilot of one of them in the late 50's. As a youngster when he would fly into Wright-Patterson AB.my grandfather who was the chief-mechanic there would take me up into the plane a couple of times. It was a neat experience.
chet druelinger, e-mail, 07.09.2010 23:55
THE KC97G SHOWN ABOVE CAME TO THE 9THAIR REFUELING SG.IN 1954 AND WAS AT MT.HOME AFB FOR SOME TIME IN SUPPORT OF THE 9TH BOMB WING WITH MANY DEPLOYMENTS DURING THE COLD WAR
Norm Parker, e-mail, 02.09.2010 05:24
I was a Navigator in the 384th AREFS at Westover AFB, MA from July 1960 - July 1964. A great group of guys who were supported by even greater maintenance personnel. We overworked those engines with way too many heavy weight takeoffs. Newfoundland, Greenland, England, Spain and the Azores were our main TDY locations. An experience I will treasure forever.
James Michael Wheeler, e-mail, 18.08.2010 18:48
I was a crew chief on the KC-97G from 1961-1964. We did reflex alerts/ missions in Newfoundland, Greenland, England, the Azores, Spain. What a job we had in those days. My base was Westover AFB in Chicopee, MA. Operating those 4360"s were the highlight of my job. Miss those days. Jim Wheeler
Bob Archer, e-mail, 12.08.2010 15:05
Can any one help with a unit assignment and home station for C-97K 52-2624 (which was later displayed at Florence, S.C. This aircraft visited the U.K. in the mid 1960s with a white top, and the boom removed. Many thanks
KARL WOODSIDE, e-mail, 08.07.2010 18:32
From the 321 AREFS--Chuck Newman call Karl @ 1 985 871 9617
B Flanagan, e-mail, 25.05.2010 02:35
Jack Redmond says he was in Alaska when one burned and I saw it happen. An untrained airman was trying to refuel an engine heater (gravity flow from the drain ) and of course the wind blew the fuel down the hot exaust, needless to say, it was sad.
Dan Boles, e-mail, 21.05.2010 07:43
I really enjoy reading the comments above. I was a boom operator on the KC-97s at Dow Air force Base with the 71st and 341st Air Refueling Squadrons from 1960 through 1963. I can still remember how cold it got on some of the night flights. Some of the people above I still remember. Thanks.
Bob Wagner, e-mail, 26.03.2010 16:38
I was with the 55th ARS at Forbes AFB Kansas. I was a Crew Cheif from 1955 until I was discharged March 31st 1957. We were on a TDY at Yokoda Japan. We then stopped at Hickham AFB in Hawaii. We refueled the B-52 which was making a around the world non stop flight. Great Aircraft. Bob
Jim Slaughter, e-mail, 19.03.2010 19:51
I was Radio Operator, 305th ARS @ McDill AFB, Tampa, FL in the late 1950s. Would like to contact AC James Cox of Waycross, GA
Jack Lawler, e-mail, 07.03.2010 14:34
I was radio operator on C-97's 1266 Air Transport Squadron at Hickam AFB Hawaii. 1950-1954. Flew air evac from Haneda AFB Tokyo to Travis AFB Calif. One flight to Travis we lost engine #2 over the Pacific, shortly after #4 went. Had ninety stretcher patients on board and declared EMERGENCY as we started losing altitude. Air sea rescue came out with a B-29 with large boat attached to belly and two jet fighters from Hamilton AFB in California. We couldn't make it to Travis so they directed us to Mills Airpot (San International Airport). We crossed directly over the Golden Gate Bridge at 2,500 ft and made a right turn for landing at S.F. Landing went well but there we many with hearts in our throarts. Once on takeoff from Kwajalein Island #2 engine decided to leave us, and it did. Horrowing experience, flames ... making a 180 and landing downwind with very high humidity. Had a right side landing gear collapse on takeoff at Haneda AFB Tokyo with 82 litter patients on board. Props #3 and#4 chewed up the runway and we stopped our slide 6 feet from Tokyo Bay.Amazing ... no injuries. I was on the first flight bring POW's home from Korea. Haneda To Travis. Most of their families were present at Travis for a wonderful home greeting.
Eddie Stough, e-mail, 22.02.2010 02:18
Flew the KC-97,F&G's as a Flight Enginer from 1959-1963 at Lincoln, AFB, Neb. (98 ARS 1959-1963) and Mt. Home AFB,Idaho. (9th.ARS 1963-1965) Truly a Cadillac.
Jack Redmon, e-mail, 03.02.2010 15:41
Flew the KC 97 With Nate ,Hill at Dyess AFB In 1956 Then went To Dover.Was in Alaska when the KC 97 burned up. Sad day.
Nate Hill, e-mail, 31.01.2010 04:30
Flew the -G model at Dyess in 1956 when it was right out of Renton,WA and then after 6 years in the KB-50J flew the KC-97L with the 5 Air Guard refueling groups. They were really cadillacs!
Charles Neal, e-mail, 15.01.2010 04:46
I spent nineteen months as a 4313(5)1 on the KC-97G's of the 301st AFRES at Barksdale (tail #'s 852-874). I cussed and fussed at being placed in recips at Sheppard, but I thanked God later to have been mated with the KC-97G. That wonderful bird and its fantastic crews ferried me all over the world. The most amazing experience of my teen years occurred on my first shift at the Goose Bay alert pad at 9:00 A.M. on May 1, 1960 with SAC's first Delta/Romeo level alert(U-2 shootdown). What an awesome sight, but many hours spent that night in recocking. I will forever hear the earie sounds of those old expander tube disc brakes.
Bill Miller, e-mail, 20.12.2009 08:59
I was a Crew Chief stationed at Selfrige Air Force base in Mt Clements Michigan, General Lemay ,came in with order reassinging most of us on loan over seas to Okinawa Japan to a MATS TRANSPORT BASE, AT Kadena AIR BASE during the Vietnam area temp duty at Da Nang VIETNAM
Leonard Chapman, e-mail, 20.12.2009 02:34
I was another who worked on the C-97 at Hickam, Hi 1502nd. FLM., (1957-60). I remember the dam engine cowling had to be laid out in the right order, or things got messed up!!. Also, the engines, with the super-charger, made it very hard working in close quarters.
Karl Woodside, e-mail, 26.10.2009 23:40
Please change my E-mail to
Karl Woodside, e-mail, 20.10.2009 22:58
My years working on the KC 97's in the 321st AREFS SAC Sg were the best. A great aircraft for it's time. A lot of maintenance with an extremely good airframe, flight characteristics, and safety record. We held the record on engine hours at about 1100 for a long time.Good crews, good maintenance, good aircraft. Sometimes it seems like yesterday, Cheers for the KC-97 F&G....
Richard A Optican, e-mail, 28.07.2009 01:57
I was the Adjutant of the 1700th Test Squardron (Turbo-Prop) at Kelly AFB, TX from 1955 to May 1957. The purpose of our squadron was to test the Pratt & Whitney turbo prop enjines asnd the Hamilton-Standard propellers to determine maintence requirements. The squadron completed it's mission in July,1957
Dennis Crowe, e-mail, 23.07.2009 00:39
My father flew the YC-97 out of Biggs AAF/AFB for the 1st SAC Support Squadron in the late 1940's.
John Duncan, e-mail, 13.06.2009 05:45
Flew over 5000 hours in various duties and models of the 97 including the VC 97 designated to be Gov. Dewey's Presidential aircraft. Super stable and reliable; brought me and my crew down safely after losing both inboards just after refusal speed on max weight take off. Unique moment; did "Charley-Charley" landing in Hong Kong with my Mother seated on the flight deck.
Michael McKone, e-mail, 14.03.2009 23:47
Was a passenger on a flight from March AFB to RAF Brize Norton, by way of Goose Bay Labrador. A beautiful airplane and my first experience hearing prop ice thrown against the fuselage - strange noise for a newcomer, but all was totally well. A great airplane.
Jim Reed, e-mail, 04.03.2009 02:53
We here at the BAHF own & are preserving a C97G Strat N522718 of Airworthy status. We are making HER into a of Cold War History & Nostalgia.When the project is complete we hope to present our C97G on the USA airshow circuit. The BAHF is a nonprofit,tax exempt,all volunteer Aviation Foundation & also flys a C54 Skymaster on the airshow circuit,which is a
Dean Gambill Jr, e-mail, 11.01.2009 18:24
My dad flew was a flight engineer on the KC97, KB50 and KB29 for nearly 30 years, both in the Air Force and finishing with the Tennessee ANG 134th ARG at McGhee Tyson ARPT Knoxville. I was lucky enough to get checked out as a boom operator and serve along with him in Tenn ANG from 1967 to 1977. Dad always said the 97 was so safe because it was about the last aircraft built on a cost plus contract basis, thus lots of redundant back up systems and components. I remember taking off from SDF in Louisville KY after a guard open house with only 3 engines turning, one of the props had sprung a leak and had to stay shut down for the flight. We flew the L model with two GE J47 jets that made quite a difference in performane and safety in all flight phases. The 97 was a great bird! One of ours from Knoxville is on display at Castle AFB Air Force Museum Merced, CA tail number 53-354. Check her out!
Lynn Wolfe, Col USAF, Ret, e-mail, 22.08.2008 01:50
I flew the KC-97G from 1958 to 1963 in the 55th ARS at Forbes AFB, Kansas. The mission of the 55th ARS, a squadron of the 55th Reconiance Wing, was to refuel the Wing RB-47s anywhere in the world. I flew as copilot for 3 years and upgraded to Aircraft Commander just before the Cuban blockade in 1962. It was a grand aircraft of it's day which required extensive aircraft system knowledge of all five crewmembers.
Ben Thurston, e-mail, 18.08.2008 20:10
As a controller at Atlanta ARTC Center, we had many opportunities to fly in the KC-97 tankers from TYS(Knoxville, TN) with the Tennessee ANG, and observe A/A refueling in AR-633.
Brent Bachman, e-mail, 16.08.2008 17:44
Was a recip engine mech with the 1502nd FLMS @ Hickam AFB (58-61) working transient AC. Working the was a pleasure compared to the C-124. Loved cranking those old 4360's.
Frank Ortlieb, e-mail, 12.08.2008 20:17
From 1956 to 1059 I flew the KC-97 F/G models out of Dow AFB, Maine with the 341st ARS. Having expieranced about 2000 hrs and millions of pounds of fuel off loaded to B-47's and B-52's in SAC I can can say it was indead a great ride for the times.
Ernie Brown, e-mail, 21.07.2008 02:24
I flew G's with the 70th, 509th and 100th Air Refueling Squadrons between July, 1961 and December, 1965 as a navigator. People that call the 97 a Cadillac are right. The only other aircraft I flew that had the room for the cockpit crew the 97 had was the C-5. Left the plane with just over 1500 hours in it.
Walter H. Polk, e-mail, 06.06.2008 04:42
That flight engineer extraordinary, Chas Bos, was the flight engineer that instructed and checked me out in KC97 as a FE at Lockourne AFB after being a crewchief on the 97 for seven years. That was the Cadillac of the AF as for my opinion.The flight engineer occupied the 'CAT BIRD'S seat!!!!!
Jerry J. Smith, e-mail, 26.05.2008 22:01
I flew the KC-97F/G as a Copilot and Aircraft Commander from 1961 to 1965 for a total of 1,500 hours. The bases were MacDill AFB, FL; Dow AFB, ME and Pease AFB, NH. It was a grand old plane.
Charles E. Bos, e-mail, 24.05.2008 23:02
I flew KC-97F & KC97G from 1953 to 1963 and C-97 from 1963 until 1972 as a flight engineer in SAC. It was a big improvement over the B-29. The engines took lots of maintenance but I loved that aircraft. It was a flight engineers aircraft.
Frank Hogarty, e-mail, 03.05.2008 20:51
Thanks for the memories. Flew the '97 for eleven years. The E,F, and G models. I've refueled B-47's, B-52's and one B-66.
Tom Eigel, e-mail, 01.05.2008 20:29
I flew KC-97s at Whiteman AFB and Little Rock AFB between Nov 57 and Oct 63 and have about 1700 hours as pilot and copilot. At Whiteman we had a KC-97G which we called a +G 1/2." I can't remember how it differed from the standard G, but it flew very differently. It was tail number XXX333.
Richard Haas, e-mail, 28.04.2008 20:34
Have over 6000 hours serving as a Loadmaster in the C97g, with over 1,000 of those hours flying in the Biafra Airlift in Africa. Eight of the C97G's barrowed from the USAF were used. One crashed at Uli, the rest brought home and one still resides in the Pema Air Museum in Tuscon.
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