Oldest jet in the Air Force returns home

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mandy Johnson
  • 190th Public Affairs
The oldest jet in the Air Force has returned home to the 190 Air Refueling Wing after being on loan to the active duty Air Force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The KC-135 Stratotanker, 57-1419, was located in Southwest Asia on a 60-day deployment. Technical Sgt. Michael Tremblay, the assistant crew chief, brought 57-1419 home June 3.

Although not always deployed with their aircraft, when at home the 57-1419 head crew chief is Master Sgt. Bradley Roberts. Regularly scheduled maintenance is key to keeping the seasoned
aircraft airborne, he said. "Although the KC-135 came off the assembly line in 1957, it receives a
complete overhaul every five years, which is similar to a 1957 Chevy frame restoration.
It is stripped both inside and out, repainted, and the engines are replaced if needed. It is also thoroughly inspected and x-rayed as well," he said.

57-1419 is the oldest in the Air Force, but it doesn't have too many years ahead of its flight mates. "That 57-1419 is not much older than the rest of the KC-135s we have, Roberts said.

The number on the tanker actually tells the tale of its journey off the assembly line. The 57 means it was built in 1957. The other numbers indicate its order in the assembly line.

When Roberts started his career as a crew chief in 1991, he was assigned to 57-1460 but the 190th had several 56 models assigned to it at that time.

Not surprisingly, the team assigned to the plane during its most recent deployment was not as seasoned as the tanker itself. During an interview about her time flying the oldest jet in the inventory, pilot
Capt. Emma House said, "It's really a source of pride for me. So many generations of other KC-135 pilots have flown her.

I can't even begin to imagine all the places she's been and the fact I get to fly her on an OEF mission in 2013 is really something special," she said.

When you buy a car, you check how many miles it has on it. With aircraft, you look at how many cumulative flying hours it has. 57-1419 may be the oldest jet in the Air Force, but it only has 22,300 flight hours, which is much less than most commercial planes. However, if you think about its cruising speed of 460 mph then she has 10,120,000 miles on her (give or take 100,000).

Its age, however, hasn't hindered its usefulness, nor has it dampened its crew's eagerness to throttle up and take to the sky.

For Roberts, lending 57-1419 to his active duty counterparts didn't come without hesitation.

"It's like lending out your child. You don't like to, but it is necessary to support the mission," he said.

For now, 57-1419 is being granted a little break before being placed back on duty, after which it will be refreshed and ready to fly again.