Stratotanker 57-1419 “Goes West”, But That’s a Good Thing!

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Last pass of a 157th ARW KC-135R over the runway at Pease ANGB on March 24, 2019 at 1419 military time!

At various times in history, the phrase “going west” has meant to die, or being finished, or as an ending. On Sunday, March 24, 2019, KC-135R serial number 57-1419, the oldest operational KC-135 airframe in the Air Force’s inventory, departed Pease Air National Guard Base on a westbound flight to Phoenix, Arizona. This wasn’t a final “going west” flight for the aircraft though, as it was being delivered to the Arizona Air National Guard’s 161st Air Refueling Wing (ARW) to continue its air refueling career.

The New Hampshire Air National Guard held a special sendoff ceremony for the last Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker based in New Hampshire; it was a great reunion for many past and present New Hampshire ANG members too. Before witnessing the final launch of a New Hampshire – based KC-135 by members of the 157th ARW, a series of presentations were made and a video history of the NHANG’s KC-135 years was shown.

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The final flight crew, flanked by the ceremony’s masters of ceremony.

The flight crew stood on the stage as the Wing Commander and aircraft commander for this final flight, Colonel John Pogorek, gave a great review of the operational history of the 157th’s involvement with the KC-135 Stratotanker. After a “key” presentation, they then left the stage and walked to their adjacent aircraft, which could be heard outside the hangar after the four engines spooled up.

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NHANG KC-135A during a 1990s air show at Pease AFB.

Brigadier General Laurie Farris, the Chief of Staff, New Hampshire Air National Guard, then spoke of the KC-135 as the piece of equipment that men and women Air Guard members grew up with. She herself flew KC-135s of the Wing for more than fifteen years. Finally, Lieutenant General L. Scott Rice, the Director, Air National Guard spoke, and received some good-natured ribbing as he is a former fighter pilot, and depended on air refueling from time to time.

The other seven aircraft that the unit had previously flown were already delivered to other units The ceremony was full of symbolism and historical reviews of what the 157th Air Refueling Wing and their KC-135s have accomplished over thirty-three years of operating the jet. As much as this signaled the end of an era, it also signaled a new beginning, as the 157th ARW continues to concentrate on the tasks of preparing for receiving their initial KC-46A Pegasus tanker this autumn.

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Sixty-two year old KC-135R 57-1419 is the oldest active KC-135 in the U.S. Air Force/Reserve/Air Guard.

Aircraft 57-1419 was built in 1957, sixty-two years ago. That’s approaching two-thirds of a century of service! Originally built as a KC-135A with water-injected Pratt and Whitney J57 turbojets, the aircraft was re-engined with more powerful CFM International F108 turbofans in 1991. It was assigned to Strategic Air Command Wings in the states of Washington, North Dakota, Kansas, Georgia and Japan (and possibly more). Ultimately, it was delivered to the Kansas Air National Guard in 2008, and two years ago was transferred to the New Hampshire Air National Guard.

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Stratotanker 57-1419 departs for Phoenix, Arizona.

The final departure for this last sortie was planned for 1357 (military time), or 1:57PM commemorating the 157th ARW. A final flypast over the Pease runway was performed at 1419 (military time), in honor of the aircraft’s serial number. Of course, these two times were met exactly, as one would expect from the 157th ARW!

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Look here in these pages in a couple of weeks for a more thorough review of the ceremony, and additional KC-135/157th ARW history…

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Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 32 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site, and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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