The last two aerial gas pumps of the Utah Air National Guard were formally rechristened Thursday, with city officials and community leaders from St. George and Bountiful aboard to celebrate.
Two KC-135 refueling tankers of the Utah Air National Guard were rechristened "City of Bountiful" and "City of St. George," joining the unit's six other aircraft named for Utah cities.Col. Lyle R. Rich, commander of the 151st Air Refueling Group, which is based at Salt Lake International Airport, told the nearly 50 guests the naming program was started to honor Utah communities for their traditionally strong support of the Guard.
Other aircraft of the 151st already bear the names of Salt Lake City, Ogden, Logan, Provo, West Valley City and Murray.
Rich said at a briefing before the refueling flights that the 151st's tankers fly all over the world, and at any moment the Utah cities could be represented in Europe, the Far East and other areas.
After hearing about the activities of the 151st and how it fits into and supports active-duty Air Force bombers and fighters, the city officials and community leaders boarded their respective aircraft to witness a refueling mission.
The "City of Bountiful" headed over the Great Salt Lake and to the Air Force's Utah Test and Training Range in the West Desert, making a wide circle over Wendover and refueling a flight of F-16s.
The "City of St. George" took a longer trek, first heading west to Nevada, then swinging around on a track that took it over Nevada, northern Utah, southern Idaho and into Wyoming before returning home.
Over the Bear Lake area on the second leg of its triangular flight, the tanker linked up with a B-52 on a training flight from California and refilled its tanks.
Those aboard the two tankers were fascinated with the refueling mission, taking turns crawling down on their stomachs into the boom operator's pit at the rear of the plane to peer through windows and watch the aerial ballet as the faster fighters and bombers slowly nuzzled up to the refueling boom.
But for the crews aboard the two tankers, the operation was routine. In 1987, according to Rich, the 151st refueled 2,535 aircraft all over the world, pumping more than 1.5 million gallons of gas.
As one passenger aboard the "City of St. George" noted, at 25,000 feet and 530 mph it's one thing to fill 'er up; there was no offer to check the oil or do the windows.