The History of Air Refueling

Welcome to the forty-second episode of the Lessons from the Cockpit podcast!

How did the concept of air refueling get started and how long has it been around? The answer will surprise you… 1921 and a gas can on a man’s back! Experimentation with air refueling methods continued with the flight of the Question Mark in 1929 and the first air refueling company with a patented system created in 1934. The air refueling world owes a lot to the Brits! How we went from prop to jet-engined tankers is a fascinating study in a channel to market and risking an entire company in the 1954 air refueling tanker competition. Boeing lost the battle but won the war.  

The Lessons from the Cockpit podcast is supported by Wall Pilot, aviation art for the walls of your home, office, or hanger. Order a four, six, or eight-foot-long vinyl print of a 429th ARS KB-50 drogue tanker, one of the first aircraft designed as an airborne tanker. The KC-135R Model from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 is also available in the 1990s SHAMU paint scheme. A KC-10 “Gucci Bird” from the 60th AMW or 305th AMW are also available from

Video of air refueling over time can be seen here, the Question Mark refueling here, and operations over Afghanistan and Iraq here.

Video of Boeing Test Pilot Alvin “Tex” Johnston barrel rolling the Dash 80 can be seen here.

Thanks for downloading and listening! Please subscribe and leave a review of any episode on my website. Download this and previous episodes of the Lessons from the Cockpit podcast from my website at under the episodes pulldown tab.  

Mark Hasara

Have a great Day!

Sluggo Sends!

P.S. — If you’re reading my book Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, I’d really love to hear your thoughts in a review on Amazon here, I read them all.

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