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"Phantom Fueler" revisited

Nose art of the sixth KC-135 Stratotanker to adorn new nose art for the 940th ARW fleet.

Nose art of the sixth KC-135 Stratotanker to adorn new nose art for the 940th ARW fleet.

Artist David Powers during the unveiling of his rendition of the "Phantom Fueler."

Artist David Powers during the unveiling of his rendition of the "Phantom Fueler."

Photo opportunity for the reservist airmem to get close-up photos of nose art.

Photo opportunity for the reservist airmem to get close-up photos of nose art.

Stratotanker Tail No. 63008012  being prepared for display of the new paint and dedication.

Stratotanker Tail No. 63008012 being prepared for display of the new paint and dedication.

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, California --

There was a time when…or there is a time now our airmen get to see the ever-ready Air Force planes  display their colorful tattooed art on their skins as it no doubt sets them apart from the other gray metal wings awaiting to take flight.

The 940th Air Refueling Wing is recovering history with a modern flair. The sixth KC-135 Stratotanker in its fleet showed off new ink on its upper left cheek.

“Phantom Fueler” was rolled out and onto the pavement September 7, 2019.

This is not the first time a phantom “tat” was requested by a “Strat,” especially this particular one.  As military history often does prove, digging deep outside the trenches of the digital age sometimes can lead to some coincidental facts.

“Phantom Fueler,” the KC-135 with its identifying tail number of 63008012, celebrated its birthdate on December 19, 1963. This day was also the tanker’s first flight.

However, #8012’s younger sibling and tail number, 63008014 followed the elder right off the assembly line in 1964. Yet not to be outdone in age and style, the younger brazenly flaunted “Phantom Phueler” first on its hard cheek and flew off into the western sky for duty at Seymour Johnson, N.C.

According to TSgt. Neil Gwaltney, a specialist flight chief with the 940th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the original artwork from the past resembles, ”Spawn,”  a fictional superhero character known today.

Gwaltney also mentioned this was a team effort that included the artist, David Powers, who is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. This is Powers’ first piece to go on a plane. He will additionally be the artist commissioned to create the nose art designs for the last two KC-135’s.

The 940th ARW returned to doing  tanker support in 2016 after nearly eight years of not carrying out a refueling mission since 2008 when it had a fleet of eight KC-135’s.

After three years air refueling for the reserve wing is in full force and support again. The current inventory has returned to the original count of eight Stratotankers. This move was considered a conversion versus a standup.

Preceding the “Phantom Fueler” on this day at Beale Air Force Base are five other KC-135’s belonging to the 940th ARW that are showing off their recent bright and bold tattoos.

Listed here from first to fifth are: “Yuba-Sutter,” “Let’s Roll!” “El Diablo,” Joker’s Wild,” and  “Ol Grandad.”

And those last two tankers mentioned before are patiently parked in line after “Phantom Fueler” waiting on the artist to do some ink magic.