News>Feature - Surprise! Santa's sleigh stops by RAF Mildenhall tanker for refueling
An air-to-air refueling training mission took a special Christmas turn as one Royal Danish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon "sleigh" pilot pulled up to take fuel wearing a Santa Claus hat fixed to his helmet. The Danish F-16 was one of 30 performing their semi-annual aerial refueling training in the skies over their homeland Dec. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)
Santa flies his "sleigh" in formation with a Royal Danish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fly off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker during a refueling mission over their homeland Dec. 8. In all, the RAF Mildenhall-based Stratotanker refueled 30 aircraft and pumped more than 40,000 tons of fuel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)
Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Powell, 100th Operations Group boom operator, guides a KC-135 Stratotanker boom pod as he refuels Santa's "sleigh" Dec. 8. During an eight-hour mission, the chief pumped more than 40,000 tons of fuel into 29 Royal Danish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons and one sleigh. Precision is paramount in a boom operator's job as a lack of attention to detail could prove catastrophic. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)
Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Powell, 100th Operations Group boom operator, prepares a KC-135 Stratotanker boom pod as a Royal Danish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon positions itself to take on fuel in the skies above Denmark Dec. 8. The Danish F-16 was one of 30 performing their semi-annual aerial refueling training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)
by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
12/10/2009 - RAF MILDENHALL, England -- 'Twas two weeks before Christmas in the European sky ... I witnessed a Stratotanker pumping fuel so a fighter could fly.
A 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 airborne over the Denmark skies refueled 30 Royal Danish Air Force F-16 Falcons Dec. 8.
Team Mildenhall was all busy at work ... not realizing in the skies arose such a quirk.
I was taking photos of a formation of four Danish F-16s flying of the right wing of the Stratotanker when the most peculiar thing happened.
When out of the boom pod arose such a clatter ... I rushed to the tail to see what was the matter.
An unusual F-16 flown by a special visitor pulled in behind the Stratotanker to take on a tank of fuel.
Then what to my wondering eyes did appear ... but an F-16 pilot wearing Santa's flight gear.
Witnessing Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Powell, 100th Operations Group boom operator, offloading more than 40,000 tons of fuel to 30 Danish fighters over the course of an eight-hour training mission was no small elf's feat - it was worthy of the big man himself. And Old Saint Nick didn't let us down - he flew his sleigh in an F-16 formation that would have put a smile on an aerial demonstration team member's face - guaranteed!
And how the boomers eyes twinkled, pumping petrol so profound ... he knew the receivers training would help keep Europe safe and sound.
As I watched the chief pump gas and provide valuable training to dozens of Danish pilots who regularly fly combat sorties with the International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan, I couldn't help but wonder, "Does Santa have any presents loaded on that sleigh and are any for me?"
But he spoke not a word, as he took on a full tank ... broke hard to right, then gave a thumbs up for thanks.
The mission concluded and I left the plane empty handed but will not dismay. After all, I just saw one heck of team of professional U.S. Airmen refuel another marvelous team of Danish Airmen - and I know for certain Santa saw it too.
Though radio chatter was nil as he flew out of sight ... I know that he wished us safety and security each night!
So, Christmas Eve night when I tuck into bed, I'll sleep with visions of joy knowing that the world's best pilots and boom operators are keeping us safe up there in the sky - and for one special day, Jolly Old Saint Nick was their wingman.
Merry Christmas Team Mildenhall, and to all a good night!