TAMPA, Fla. -- Scott Dixon flew to Florida early March 26 and stood on a different type of aircraft a few hours later.
The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion joined Dale Coyne Racing's Justin Wilson for a tour of MacDill Air Force Base, where airmen took the two drivers aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker.
“I’ve done some other Air Force base stuff, but never the refueling side,” Dixon said. “I think that just the sheer numbers, the amount of fuel and the different kinds of plane that they refuel, and that this plane actually fully loaded can fly non-stop for about 29 hours and go all the way around the world. You’d need a lot of crew to get that job done, but it’s a lot of fun to mix stories about the things that we do and what the Air Force do and everyone at this base.”
MacDill Air Force base opened in 1939 and is situated on 5,767 acres. The KC-135 holds 31,275 gallons of fuel and is responsible for the refueling of Air Force aircraft mid-air as they serve their missions.
The drivers were shown to the cockpit first, sitting in the pilot and co-pilot seats while given an explanation of the various controls. The technology was perfected in the 1950s and '60s and hasn’t been changed much since, the pilots explained. There is no air conditioning, and temperatures can reach up to 140 degrees.
Dixon and Wilson were then taken to the opposite side of the plane where the refueling station sits at the bottom of the aircraft. Aviators called “boom operators” lay on their stomachs at the station and extend the boom to an adjacent plane and safely refuel.
“It’s slightly different to the race car that I’m used to, but it’s pretty cool to see the cockpit and the instruments,” said Wilson of the tight space where the boom operators lay. “We spend most of our time on commercial planes traveling from race to race, but to see one of these beasts and see how it works, to see all the details of that was really neat.”