|TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla., Sept. 7, 2006 — Nearly 50 years after retired Chief Master Sgt. Bobby McCasland boarded his first KC-135 Stratotanker, he is still in the KC-135 business.
Today, he is a program manager for a team building a Test Tanker 2 KC-135R for the Air Force.
McCasland is also honoring his roots and making arrangements to attend Tinker Air Force Base's KC-135 50th anniversary celebration slated for Sept. 8 to 9.
"The Air Force is the best thing I ever did," he said in a phone interview from Greenville, Texas.
McCasland enlisted in the Air Force in January 1950, about a year after his brother joined the Army. Immediately after boot camp, he was sent to various aircraft and engine schools and became a crew chief. In 1957, he went to Washington to pick up the very first KC-135A to take to Castle Air Force Base in California.
"It was great," he said. "When I went to B-52 school in Seattle, I saw the KC-135 being built. It's easy to maintain, it's very durable and a super aircraft."
In June 1957, after transporting the KC-135A to Castle AFB, then-Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Curtis E. LeMay requested a KC-135A in Washington, D.C., as a mode of transportation for dignitaries. McCasland was part of that crew.
"While doing that, we did tests on the aircraft," McCasland said. "We tested the first four-roller disc brakes and the flight director system."
McCasland said during his tenure he was promoted to flight engineer and stayed in Washington, D.C., until July 1966.
He also said he had several special trips, including a flight with then-Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Lyndon B. Johnson. He said his crew also flew to the Bahamas to pick up the National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronauts who were returning from the first suborbital flight.
"By the time I left (Washington, D.C.), I had 5,000 flying hours on that one airplane," he said.
After leaving Washington, D.C., McCasland went to the 2762nd Material Squadron at Detachment 2 in Greenville,