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KC-135 crew inspires future aviators at International Women's Day event

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Carla Stefaniak
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- An all-female KC-135 crew took to the skies to attend an International Women's Day event used to inspire females and males to discover careers in aviation and other Science, Technology, Engineering and Math-based fields.

The Sky’s No Limit-Girls Fly Too! event took place March 10-11 at Abbotsford International Airport, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.

The McConnell Air Force Base-crew, which included three pilots, two crew chiefs and two boom operators, attended to showcase the KC-135 Stratotanker and inspire more than 10,000 participants from the British Columbia and Washington areas.

“The energy and excitement these young kids had learning about aviation was contagious,” said 1st Lt. Victoria Perkins, 350th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “It was rewarding for us to see others interested in what we do day in and day out.”

In addition to the KC-135 display from McConnell, there was a KC-135 from 171st Air Refueling Wing, a C-5 Galaxy from the 433rd Airlift Wing, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas; and a C-17 Globemaster III from the 89th Airlift Squadron, Wright-Patterson Air Force, Ohio. There were also numerous displays from the Canadian air force and navy, including the elite Snowbirds, the Canadian forces air demonstration team.

While there were many participants at the air show, the 22nd Air Refueling Wing was the only display with an all-female crew.

“Many people, including other air crews, came by our jet to see and meet us,” said Senior Airman Baila Kunesova, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics journeyman and assistant crew chief. “They all told us how great it was to see women in all crew positions, especially as mechanics.”

The two-day event invited young girls and boys to enjoy free and fun hands-on events, including aircraft static displays and other booths to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers, both military and civilian, it also offered helicopter rides for children and their families who have never flown before.

Hundreds of people were constantly cycling through the KC-135, learning about the different parts of the aircraft and the air refueling mission. The crew also used this air show as a training mission for all crew members.

“Not only were we able to meet and inspire young girls and boys to pursue aviation, but this air show provided a great opportunity for networking and building relations with our Canadian Royal Air Force allies and other U.S. Air Force crews,” said Capt. Millie Hale, 22nd Air Refueling Wing executive officer and KC-135 pilot.