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U.S. Air Force Bobby McCasland
Retired Chief Can't Say Goodbye to KC-135
By Brandice J. Armstrong
Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center Public Affairs
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,
Then-Senior Master Sgt. Bobby McCasland serves as a flight engineer on the KC-135A Speckled Trout, tail number 55-3126, in this early 1960s photo.  Courtesy photo by Bobby McCasland

Texas, to modify KC-135s and do quality-assurance work. He stayed until retiring from the Air Force in 1980.

Yet, his KC-135 career didn't end there.

In 1985, he accepted a civilian position doing quality assurance for the KC-135 and returned to Detachment 2, until he retired in 1987. He stayed at the detachment but worked for a U.S. Customs Service until he retired from government service in 1996.

In his nearly 50 years of KC-135 experience, McCasland has seen the aircraft change and improve with enhancements including the replacement of the lower skins from a thin brittle material to a more durable and flexible material. He saw engineers replace the J57 engine with a TF33.

These days, McCasland is building a KC-135R, a communication test aircraft with a boom to support other aircraft in air refueling such as the F-22 Raptor and C-5 Galaxy. The aircraft is scheduled for completion March 15, and will be delivered to the 412th Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Though his KC-135 adventure is winding down, the 74-year-old retired chief still keeps busy. He has a wife of 54 years, three children, four grandchildren and one great-grandson.

"I went into the Air Force and I never looked back," McCasland said. "It was a very exciting career." 

Last Updated:
09/07/2006, Eastern Daylight Time
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