In-flight refueling is a way of extending the time an airplane can remain in flight.
With aerial refueling a plane can conceivably continue flying indefinitely, limited only by the pilot’s endurance. In-flight refueling became critical during the days of the Cold War for the Strategic Air Command. STRATCOM bombers maintained readiness to make a nuclear strike against US enemies thousands of miles away and return safely to base. SAC’s premier bombers—the huge B-36, the fast B-47, and the perennial B-52—all had to be refueled in-flight to make their long journeys. The same was the case with the fighters. No fighter could possibly get off the ground with all the fuel it needed for its long mission. It would have to be replenished in flight with more fuel.
But three things were necessary for in-flight refueling:
- The receiving aircraft needed to slow down. Air Force tankers fly slowly being they are extra heavy with fuel—especially the old propeller-driven tankers. Fighter aircraft must reduce speed dramatically, from supersonic speeds down to near stalling speeds. For instance, the SR-71, with a top speed of over 2,500 MPH must slow down to less than 500 MPH when refueling from a KC-135. Without slowing down, the receiving bomber or fighter would be in no position to receive fuel from the tanker.
- The receiving aircraft would have to hook up to the tanker’s “flying boom”—the hose which channeled the fuel into the receiving aircraft. It required a lot of concentrated effort to hook up to the tanker and stay connected during the fuel exchange.
- The receiving aircraft had to draw fuel—which required waiting and giving time for the fuel from the tanker to fill the receiving aircraft’s empty fuel tanks. A retired fighter pilot once told me this typically took a painstaking 10 to 15 minutes of very careful flying.
I cannot help but compare this aerial refueling with a passage in the Bible. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:31). When we wait on the Lord we have to slow down in our busy schedule and make time for God. We have to focus our thoughts and our faith on God until we connect with Him, until all the world’s worries and cares are drowned out. And, finally, until we are giving God our undivided attention. Then, in faith, we must draw strength from Him.
This happens as we worship Him, count our blessings and thank God for them, acknowledge Him as our Creator and Sustainer, and lay our needs before Him. This attitude of drawing strength from God can be sustained throughout the day. Distractions will inevitably come and we’ll need to “reconnect” as the day’s battles rage on. But this “waiting on the Lord” will renew our strength. Like in-flight refueling, waiting upon God will extend our “flight through the day” far beyond all human power. Therefore, it will empower us to mount up with wings as eagles, to run and not grow weary, and to walk and not faint. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).
Dear Father in heaven, help me this day to slow down, focus my thoughts and faith upon You, and draw strength from Your infinite storehouse of power. Empower me, O God, and make me equal to everyone of this week’s challenges. Amen.