1923 -- The Beginnings of Inflight Refueling


The air service first demonstrated inflight refueling in June 25, 1923, and in August of that year Lts. Lowell H. Smith and John P. Richter set a new world's record by staying aloft for 37 hours and 15 minutes in a DH-4 over San Diego with the help of refueling from another DH-4.

Between Jan. 1 to 7, 1929, the Question Mark commanded by Maj. Carl Spaatz and including Cap. Ira C. Eaker, Lt. Elwood R. Quesada, and Master Sgt. Roy Hooe among its crew would establish a world record for an endurance flight. Their Fokker C-2 transport stayed aloft for almost 151 hours. Two Douglas C-1s took turns refueling them with a hose lowered from the tankers through a trapdoor in the top of the Question Mark.

On July 19, 1948, the 43rd and 509th Air Refueling Squadrons were activated at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and Roswell Air Force Base, N.M., in preparation for the assignment of tanker aircraft. These two squadrons were the first air refueling units in the U.S. Air Force. They began receiving tanker aircraft in late 1948. These first tankers were simply B-29s modified to carry and dispense fuel while aloft. Employing the British-developed system of in-flight refueling, that is, the use of trailing hoses and grapnel hooks, these tankers were designated KB-29Ms.

See the publication by the Office of History Air Mobility Command:  Air Refueling, Without Tankers We Cannot...

See the AFHSO publication:
Seventy Five Years of Inflight Refueling Highlights 1923-1998.