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Inflight Refueling

Sun Feb 06, 2005 11:12 am

I have a question about military inflight refueling. I always wonder if there is a danger of the trailing aircraft encountering the refueling aircraft's wake turbulence. If there is such a danger, what procedure is used to avoid the vortices and wake of the refueler?

Thanks for the help,

You know the gear is up and locked when it takes full throttle to taxi to the terminal.
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RE: Inflight Refueling

Sun Feb 06, 2005 2:10 pm

If DuceBoom is around, he'd be the better one to answer this.

But to answer your question yes. I have read that when a C-5 slides up behind a refuler, the Boomer can actually feel the tail lift due to the 'bow wave' being formed by the C-5. My guess on avoiding it come from strict and established approach procedures.
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
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RE: Inflight Refueling

Mon Feb 07, 2005 2:12 pm

Hola dude,

Yes, there is a danger from wake turbulence. The way heavies usually avoid it is a careful joinup that resembles an upside down ILS approach. At about 1 NM from the tanker the receiver will start a gentle climb (about 300 FPM) while he's overtaking the tanker. If he does it right he normally won't hit turbies. It's not unusual to still get some this way but if you do it's usually just some transients. Fighters use a different style for their joinup; F4wso should be able to help out with the fighter puke perspective.

EMBQA is right on the money with his words. Heavies like the FRED, Barney, and the E-4 have a very noticeable bow wave. Autopilot-on isn't too rough. But AP-off really sucks. Not much the tanker crews can do except hope for accurate distance calls from the boomer (helps with the pilots trim rythym) and a smooth receiver. With either one missing the tanker, and by default the receiver, will start to PIO (pilot induced oscillation). Not much fun there, especially from the back. Breakaways are pretty common from this.
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RE: Inflight Refueling

Tue Feb 08, 2005 4:58 am


Thanks for the response.

Must be quite a view from the boom operator's seat, especially when it comes to the big 'uns!

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Photo © Robert M Rossman


You know the gear is up and locked when it takes full throttle to taxi to the terminal.
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RE: Inflight Refueling

Tue Feb 08, 2005 2:37 pm

When we did refuelings with KC-135s it was a "gentle" experience...depending on the pilot in command.  Big grin
With the KC/KDC-10s it was a little different...the no2 engine's downwash did in fact create disturbances because it hit our radome....

Oh yes...I flew in an AWACS at the time....what a great plane!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"That's the good thing about the 707...it can do anything, but read!" Joe Patroni, Airport '70
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Joined: Tue May 29, 2001 8:03 am

RE: Inflight Refueling

Tue Feb 08, 2005 3:12 pm


I can't say enough about the view. It's the best seat in the house with the largest single window on any AF jet. With a FRED in contact, most of the window is filled up with just his fuselage! But the weird part is looking through the mirror while in contact and seeing he's flying in a crab; 5-10 degrees off center. All I can guess is that it helps alleviate some of the downwash from good ol' #2. As Bully said AWACS and the T-tail guys get beat up pretty good by #2, there's nothing we can do about it though except feel for them.

All in all, the heavies are impressive, but fighters are where you bring home the bacon.....unless you're refueling with unqualified heavy pilots  Sad

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