thumbnail of People Near Here; 206; Airman Kathy Hoffman: Boomer and the Crew Dogs
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Why come along and meet a woman whose Air Force career has taken her sky high where she makes the refueling of military aircraft look like a ballet in the stratosphere. Next on PEOPLE near here. Hello
and welcome to another edition of people near here. Today we're at the entrance to the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base in the far northern Adirondacks of New York State. For the entire Cold War from Sputnik the glass knows this airbase was home to the men women and machines which defended the security of the free world. One of the missions assigned here since 1956 was the three hundred and eighty Air Refueling Wing. Their job to fly strato tankers anywhere they were needed then execute the delicate
operation of offloading Kunz of fuel to other military aircraft. The 111 here. Now not long ago videographer Paul Frederick and I got to tag along on several missions with one particular strato tanker crew and we became fascinated with the airman Cathy Hofmann whose job it was to fly the boom and execute the tricky transfer of jet fuel from her aircraft to another. So come along as we do some high flying with one of the most interesting and unending occupations in the United States Air Force with airman Kathy Hoffman and her crew known in military parlance as Boomer and the crew dogs. The dawn of the nuclear age
signaled the end of the hot war and the beginning of the Cold War. What military strategists had believed for centuries now became the key to keeping the peace. The ability to get into a position quickly meant everything in the prevention or outcome of any future hostilities jet aircraft quickly became the backbone of this strategy. But keeping him in the air and on target would present a daunting challenge having to find a friendly air base land and refuel before continuing the mission. Could eat up precious time and resources so the United States Air Force and Boeing aircraft developed a delivery system that was in fact a flying gas station in one thousand fifty seven. When civilian America was still getting its very first taste of jet travel aboard the Boeing 707 commercial aircraft the first KC 135 strato tanker equipped with a flying boom for fuel transfer was delivered to the Air Force. By
1965 seven hundred thirty two tankers had been built and delivered today about six hundred thirty of them are still in service for over 30 years spanning the turbulent world politic from Sputnik the Glasnost the KC 135 has been airborne passing the gas and countless missions around the world. Arguably the world might be a much different possibly even more dangerous place without the strato tanker and their crews. Isn't it strange then that most people don't even know they exist
in the tour who was growing up. I had a friend and him tell me stories. Thanks I just remembered tears coming. These these these men and women are just so courageous. Pride for them. This is something that I want to thank me. One of the towns the
one Kathy Hoffman is the youngest and the only enlisted personnel on our tanker crew. Born in Kansas City that raised both there and in northern California. She enlisted in the Air Force in 1989 after a semester at junior college. Kathy is single and lives on base and one of the coed dorms Senior Airman Kathy Hoffman is the boom operator for banner on board the KC 135. While the rest of our flying crew and all other strato tanker cockpit crews are officers the bombers are traditionally enlisted personnel before one is Plattsburgh via the possibly departure that is filed by only having maintain one there with 1000 expected by level 2 6 0 1 0 minutes after the pilot. We're
taking up at 7 on 2 landing at 10:40 dropping dropping off our passengers and then scheduled to go back up in the pattern at 11:10 landing at 12:40 local. If we do have a crash landing mainly after takeoff. All faces flaps have to gear down once a lot of tiles cut off after touchdown and not the flaps down to 15 increments past 30 degrees or commit ourselves to land. I'll go ahead and be looking around for a suitable landing site. If we're out over the lake of course we'll leave the care up and then I'll cut off the throttles after a touchdown when you press your plans best possible you know the alarm bell I'll go and give a break. Brace for impact call the cops session prior to us crash landing and lock your Highness's down and prepare yourself. The briefing continues with each crew member contributing specific information about the next day's mission which in this case will be the midair refueling of an Air Force KC 10. The KC 10 you might say is the military version
of a jumbo jet. Before the crew departs the briefing each one of them knows exactly what will be required of them as individuals and as a team during the coming mission. All questions are asked and all are answered in absolute detail. You're not going to get the mission accomplished. It's the little thing relies on a certain certain person on the crew of the plane. You can't get the Mission Accomplished of the pilot and the ground. You can't get the mission accomplished if the map can't find out where you're supposed to be and where the receiver relies on Muda to actually complete the mission given them their offload so each person needs to do their job and each person is relying on the other person do their jobs to work so subtle it. Thank
you for human or day. So
the old the old thing with one thing. You
look at the statistics. I wonder when that many accidents in comparison to what would be believed in the fact that we are just a huge gas station up in the air. It's it's real safe place safe. If any person at any time was what's going on they have their billing limit. I believe that a problem can arise from having officers on one of the first part of the course that I have been with respect to my knowledge of my job and I don't think that they only think of me as most of the crew but I tend to be a lot more forceful with my opinions and making sure that I don't go unheard. And my crew but I have now
one micro in the past have called me the sheriff because I have a tendency. Very assertive and strong and I think that's part of being a woman that I need to show them but I don't. One son station airman Hoffman leaves the other crew members in the cockpit and watch to work with the other crew member certainly setting up the stage. Their exact position and once they're with him it is my job to bring them and have visual contact with my crew members in the front. After I get him in within 50 feet of our visual lighting to come in at once they're within
10 feet I'm actually make a contact with their plane and my crew members start getting killed. Oh and FYI a huge. A hit. Thank
ye the day Alex was the AG. Thank you. With rendezvous and fuel transfer complete the crew turns the strato tanker toward
home in an hour. They are on final approach and have been cleared to land on a calm day landings at Plattsburg can be almost routine. In fact the runway one of the longest and widest in the country has been considered as an alternate landing site for at least one space shuttle mission. Maintenance of the strato tankers is serious business. It is also a point of considerable pride in the huge hangars at Plattsburg the aircraft receive the kind of attention that has kept them flying for the past three decades. Every rivet bolt capacitor boom wheel and toggle switch is inspected for wear and tear. Then repaired or replaced
the skin of each aircraft is meticulously studied for even the slightest damage and then amended if necessary the engines are removed and in some cases completely rebuilt to manufacture and Air Force specifications. See even the JP for the fuel which keeps the strata thank yous and their receivers going is constantly monitored and tested under the most rigorous of guidelines. It has been this way for over 30 years and according to the Air Force will continue to be so for the next 30 years as well. The thing that impresses me but you would think of as I ever heard of until 2030. I think
songs are evidence of the strato tankers durability is proven by their crews every day. Take the war in the Gulf for example. While the media concentrated on the more dramatic results of the air and ground war the tankers were there quietly doing their job and so was airman huff. I was 5 months for desert. Starting my for over 25 combat support missions I hope fighters are born after the war started. The stress was outrageous. Fly late at night sorra early in the morning early that same next line to be bombed by scribes for constantly hour with their alarms going off and
it was really hard to get any kind of sleep so that made the stress a lot harder to take. I believe that my role is still as important today as it was during the Cold War. During the war itself and the fact that the military always prepared for anything although what we do right now is training missions and that something needs to be done so that we are always ready to go. Wow. As we performed this
flight like all others in this program is a practiced mission. Today it will be F-16 over the mountains of New Hampshire. But the next mission could be for real and take our crew and their KC 135 anywhere. And there may be curious listeners who hear the tanker rumbling overhead far above the clouds. And if the listeners are curious enough then someday they might fly this very same airplane as Boomer and the crew with. The eve
of a threat to our democratic way of life. I believe that there's not a threat any longer. I want a former life threats that are Weiner and his time for him. I'm filled with pride. To me it's it's freedom. But.
Thanks. Thank
People Near Here
Episode Number
Airman Kathy Hoffman: Boomer and the Crew Dogs
Producing Organization
Mountain Lake PBS
Contributing Organization
Mountain Lake PBS (Plattsburgh, New York)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/113-71ngfc2b).
Episode Description
Fly with one of the few female refueling boom operators in the United States Air Force as she had her crew take us aboard the military stratotanker for several delicate high altitude refueling missions.?*(episode number on tape label and/or slate may be incorrect)
Series Description
People Near Here is a documentary series that explores Adirondack history and culture.
Local Communities
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Camera Operator: Muirden, Derek
Editor: Frederick, Paul
Producer: Muirden, Derek
Producing Organization: Mountain Lake PBS
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Mountain Lake PBS (WCFE)
Identifier: 0085A (MLPBS)
Format: Betacam: SP
Generation: Master
Duration: 30:00:00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “People Near Here; 206; Airman Kathy Hoffman: Boomer and the Crew Dogs,” 1997-00-00, Mountain Lake PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 1, 2024,
MLA: “People Near Here; 206; Airman Kathy Hoffman: Boomer and the Crew Dogs.” 1997-00-00. Mountain Lake PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 1, 2024. <>.
APA: People Near Here; 206; Airman Kathy Hoffman: Boomer and the Crew Dogs. Boston, MA: Mountain Lake PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from