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Travis AFB Bids Farewell to the KC-10 Extender at Wings Over Solano 2024

Travis AFB Bids Farewell to the KC-10 Extender at Wings Over Solano 2024

BY JAMIE WEST Published on March 26, 2024 0 COMMENTS

On March 16 and 17, Travis Air Force Base in Suisun/Fairfield, California (KSUU) hosted the biennial Wings Over Solano air show. This event was not only highlighted by the US Navy Blue Angels and the USAF F-22 Raptor Demo Team but also by a special farewell ceremony for the US Air Force's heavy cargo and aerial refueling aircraft, the McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender.




The KC-10 has been a crucial asset for US and allied forces for the past 40+ years, flying airlift and aerial refueling missions during the 1986 bombing of Libya (Operation Eldorado Canyon), the 1990-91 Gulf War with Iraq (Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm), the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia (Operation Allied Force), the war in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom), and the Iraq War (Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn).


McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender on display during the 2024 Wings Over Solano Air show at Travis Air Force Base. The base's air traffic control tower provides a nice background. Photo: Jamie West

The KC-10, a heavily modified military variant of the famous DC-10-30CF airliner, first flew in July 1980 and performed its first aerial refueling sortie in October. While the KC-10A was the main variant and the initial military tanker version based on the DC-10, some aircraft were actually DC-10s converted to tanker/transport configuration and were designated as KDC-10s. The KC-10 is a DC-10 with upgraded military avionics and the addition of an improved cargo handling system.




The most notable changes were the addition of the McDonnell Douglas Advanced Aerial Refueling Boom below the tail, additional fuel tanks in the baggage compartment below the main cargo deck, and a drogue-and-hose system on the starboard side of the rear fuselage, which allows refueling of Navy, Marine, and allied aircraft all in one mission, unlike the older Boeing KC-135 tanker. The boom operator is seated in the rear of the aircraft with a wide window for monitoring refueling rather than prone as in the KC-135.


KC-10 from Joint Base McGuire. Along with Travis AFB, Joint Base McGuire was one of the primary bases for the KC-10. | Photo: Alex H


Refueling operations are controlled through a digital fly-by-wire system, and the refueling boom can deliver fuel at a maximum rate of 1,100 gallons (4,180 liters) per minute. The drogue system has a maximum offload rate of 470 gallons (1,786 liters) per minute. As aerial refueling platforms, KC-10s have largely operated in the strategic refueling of large numbers of tactical aircraft on ferry flights and other strategic transport aircraft.


One of two KDC-10s of the Royal Netherlands Air Force stationed at Eindhoven Airport as part of the 334th Transport Squadron. Photo: AJ Riccobono


The first KC-10 was delivered to the US Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Barksdale AFB in March 1981 and served until 1992, when they were reassigned to the new Air Mobility Command. In 1982, the newly renamed 22nd Air Refueling Wing, formerly the 22nd Bombardment Wing, acquired a fleet of KC-10As and became the 2nd unit to operate them. The 60th and final KC-10 was delivered on November 29, 1988.


One of Omega Air Refueling's KC-10s departing March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, CA (KRIV). Photo: Caleb Fleming


A couple of civilian commercial refueling companies, Omega Aerial Refueling Services, and Global Airtanker Service, operate two KDC-10s (converted DC-10s), tails N974VV and N852V, for lease that provide probe and drogue refueling from wing pods similar to the KC-10. In June and July of 2011, Omega Air's KDC-10 supported three Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornets en route to Red Flag-Alaska. In 2019, Omega agreed to purchase two KDC-10s from The Netherlands. One was delivered in November 2019, and the second in October 2021.

KC-10 and a Lockheed C-5M Super Galaxy from Travis AFB taking part in an aerial refueling demonstration at Wings Over Solano 2024. Photo: Jamie West


In January 2023, the USAF announced that all KC-10s would be retired by September 2024, and the KC-10 flew its last combat sortie on October 5, 2023. Today, the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base is the only squadron left with a fleet of KC-10 Extenders. It is replacing them with a fleet of new Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aircraft, which are military cargo/aerial refueling variants of the Boeing 767 airliner.


Solo Farewell Flight for the McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender at Wings Over Solano 2024 at Travis Air Force Base in Suisun/Fairfield, CA. Photo: Jamie West


During the 2024 Wings Over Solano air show, Travis paid tribute to the iconic KC-10 with their popular "Parade of Heavies," a "follow the leader"-style flight featuring one of each of the now four aircraft based at Travis. A KC-10A Extender led the flight, including a KC-46A Pegasus, a Lockheed C-5M Super Galaxy, and a Boeing C-17A Globemaster III.


The KC-10 Extender and its replacement, the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus, on display at Wings Over Solano 2024 at Travis Air Force Base in Suisun/Fairfield, CA. Photo: Jamie West


Following the parade, the KC-10 also took part in a special aerial refueling demonstration with its refueling boom extended toward the C-5M Super Galaxy and after that, a special low altitude solo flight around the show grounds with the show announcer talking about its incredible 40+ year service to the US Air Force and allied forces around the world. What an amazing send-off for an aircraft with such a remarkable history.



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Jamie West
Ramp Agent at Southwest Airlines (KSJC) and AeroXplorer staff photographer with a passion for aviation and railroad photography. Favorite commercial aircraft are the Airbus A380 and NEO family and the Boeing 747 and 737 MAX 8. Favorite general aviation aircraft is the Cessna 340A.

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TRIP REPORTS Travis Air Force Base KSUU McDonnell Douglas KC-10 KC-10 Extender Retirement Wings Over Solano Air Show US Air Force USAF DC-10 Military


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