Wednesday April 16, 2014
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18-005 Aerial Refueling

Wednesday Apr 16, 2014

Lead: Almost from the beginning of powered flight, aviators recognized that one of the major problems they faced was having enough fuel to keep aircraft aloft for extended time and distance. They solved this with aerial refueling.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: On June 27, 1923 two U.S. Army Air Service planes accomplished the first mid-air refueling. Two months later, with two tankers attending, a DH-4B Army biplane set a world-wide endurance record remaining in the air for 37 hours. Experiments continued on both sides of the Atlantic with the United States desiring to enhance postal service to Europe and the British seeking to extend the range of their flying boats to the far reaches of the Empire.

The first practical refueling system was the grappled-line looped-hose in which a tanker would grab a line from a receiving craft, pull the line into tanker and hook the line to a tank. This was a very dangerous process until 1935 when a spill-free refueling nozzle was brought on line.

There are two modern systems that are used to refuel military fixed and rotary-wing craft. The first is the probe-and-drogue method, a descendent of the grapple line technique, in which a tanker releases a hose with a basket that looks like a badminton shuttlecock and the receiver flies in and connects with the line to get topped off. This type has a slower, lower flow rate for the fuel and is subject to pilot error in the receiving aircraft.

The most sophisticated system is the flying boom, a rigid tube with telescopes out, which is inserted by an operator in the tanker into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft. Both systems are used sometimes on the same tanker to increase the numbers of aircraft taking fuel, and both permit aircraft to extend their flying time for deployment at distances impossible without aerial refueling.

From Richmond Virginia, this is Dan Roberts.


Air Force Aerial Refueling Methods: Flying Boom versus Hose-and-Drogue.


Cruddas, Colin. Air Empire: British Imperial Civil Aviation, 1919-1939.

Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2009.

Smith, Richard K. Seventy Five Years of Inflight Refueling.

Copyright 2014 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.


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